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What is Montreal’s place among the world’s future global cities?


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Opinion dans la Gazette.

 

 

Cooper: Can Montreal become a ‘future city?’

 

 

BY CELINE COOPER, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE APRIL 8, 2013

 

8202376.jpg

 

Revellers at this year’s Nuit Blanche warm up by the fire at Montreal’s Quartier des spectacles. In his new book A History of Future Cities, Daniel Brook writes: “The true city of the future is not simply the city with the tallest tower or the most stunning skyline but one that is piloted by the diverse, worldly, intelligent people it assembles and forges.” Can Montreal be one of these?

 

Photograph by: Tim Snow , The Gazette

 

 

MONTREAL — What is Montreal’s place among the world’s future global cities?

 

I recently picked up Daniel Brook’s new book A History of Future Cities. In it, he skilfully braids together historical detail, journalism and storytelling to trace the impossible rise of Shanghai, Dubai, Mumbai and St. Petersburg from developing world “instant-cities” into four of the world’s most influential global hubs.

 

Brook looks at how these cities in China, the United Arab Emirates, India and Russia were forged. His description of how soaring cityscapes were planned and erected out of deserts, frozen marshland, oceans and rice paddies through both the ambition of visionaries and the cruelty of despots gives us some context for the emerging Asian era that we are witnessing today. We learn a bit about how the economic development of the world’s nations has come to be inextricably linked to the development of global cities.

 

So what does this have to do with Montreal?

 

As it happens, I started reading this book about future cities on the same day that a sinkhole swallowed two cars at Montreal’s Trudeau airport.

 

On top of the crumbling bridges, man-eating potholes and mould-infested public schools, there was also news that day about Bill 14, the Parti Québécois’s bid to bolster the province’s language laws and further regulate who can speak what, when and where. Much of this discussion focuses on the fear that Montreal is becoming “anglicized.”

 

Which brings me back to the question: what is Montreal’s place in this new world landscape that is no longer necessarily one of nations, but of cities?

 

For many of us who live here, Montreal occupies a special place on the global grid and in our imaginations. We often think of it as a metropolis that straddles old and new, French and English, Europe and North America. But thankfully Montreal and its inhabitants are much more complex than that.

 

As Columbia University sociologist Saskia Sassen and other scholars who study global cities have argued, cities are where new norms and identities are shaped.

 

Despite the fact that it has been hemorrhaging economic clout since the late 1970s and the 1980s, and that its infrastructure is falling apart at the seams, Montreal remains an inspiring, dynamic city. Montreal’s creativity — its colourful population and the ideas they bring to life — is without a doubt the city’s greatest asset.

 

And yet while other urban hubs are leveraging their cultural and linguistic diversity to build intellectual and economic corridors that connect them to the rest of the world, here in Quebec we are told (by our government, no less) that Montreal’s diversity is not an asset but a problem to be managed.

 

There is too much pasta and caffè in our restaurants. Our artists are composing songs in the wrong languages. Our children are learning too much English in the classroom. These things must be regulated with new bills, laws and decrees.

 

It reminds me of a line by urban thinker and activist Jane Jacobs in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961.

 

Jacobs wrote: “There is a quality even meaner than outright ugliness or disorder, and this meaner quality is the dishonest mask of pretended order, achieved by ignoring or suppressing the real order that is struggling to exist and to be served.”

 

And so it is.

 

A History of Future Cities attests to the fact that a built urban environment is important. Dazzling feats of engineering, architectural brilliance, skylines of human-made steel and glass stalagmites are meant to be both inspiring and functional, a draw for the world’s financially and intellectually ambitious people.

 

But one of the most compelling lines in the book — and the one that resonated with me as I pondered Montreal’s future in the world — was this:

 

“The true city of the future is not simply the city with the tallest tower or the most stunning skyline but one that is piloted by the diverse, worldly, intelligent people it assembles and forges.”

 

In other words, a fancy cityscape matters, but the people who live there matter more.

 

For Quebec to succeed as it moves into the future — whether as a sovereign country or as part of the Canadian federation — it needs Montreal to thrive.

 

Montreal’s place among future global cities will depend on not only attracting the world’s best and brightest, but allowing them the freedom to be diverse, to be themselves, and to be brilliant.

 

[email protected]

 

Twitter: @CooperCeline

 

© Copyright © The Montreal Gazette

 

Original source article: Cooper: Can Montreal become a ‘future city?’

 

 

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Celine+Cooper+Montreal+become+future+city/8202375/story.html#ixzz2Puw40uY7

Edited by IluvMTL
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I mentionned elsewhere how I believe that good leadership is absolutely necessary for our city to get out of this rut we've been in. Even if MTL posseses the assets (creative and otherwise) to shine, I'm still waiting for our saviour. Funny that it is never mentionned as a necessity for successful cities, almost as if it is a given.

 

Look at cities that shine, I'm sure the mayors deserve most of the the credit. You need a leader (like a good director or manager) to 'exploit' the talents at hand.

 

 

This is the link for the book in the article.

 

http://daniel-brook.com/

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