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http://gehlarchitects.com/blog/hurray-for-smart-montrealers/

 

 

 

 

HURRAY FOR SMART MONTREALERS!

 

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Over the last couple of months I have written about the different aspects of smart cities, the pros and cons, the dos and don’ts. The outcome of these musings suggests that we ought to discard the idea of a smart city for the sake of promoting smart communities, in which smartness is a tool for benefitting and improving the local social sustainability. However, within this approach lies a fundamental challenge: how do we actually make communities engage with and take responsibility for the shaping of the public realm, using tools and methods they have never known before? Enter Montreal.

 

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Montreal uses pilot projects to kick-start the regeneration of the urban spaces. A vacant parking lot on the outskirts of Downtown was turned into an urban beach thanks to the local organization l’ADUQ.

 

 

 

Public Life in Montreal

To understand the social life of Montrealers, one must first understand the basic history of the city’s public spaces. During the era of modernisation, more than 1/3 of the downtown core was demolished to make way for massive super-complexes embodying offices, car pars, underground malls and cafes. In the industrial suburbs, thousands of housing units were torn down to allow vehicular traffic an easy access into the city. These “renovations” were carried out in less than two decades, but they still managed to methodically get in the way of public life. Since then, the city has taken a completely different approach to urban planning, superseding even today’s hype for attractive, green and lively metropolises.

 

“My colleagues and I, we based our entire careers around reconstructing the city from where it was left after the 1970’s and 1980’s demolitions (…) we want Montreal to be a network of public spaces.”

 

– Wade Eide, Montreal Urban Planning Department, private interview July 15, 2014

 

 

 

 

Throughout the year, Montreal hosts hundreds of events that all contribute to a lively and active public life.

 

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Today, the effects of Wade Eide and his colleagues’ efforts are absolutely visible in the streets and squares of Montreal, which have indeed been transformed into a coherent experience of activities and life. The most remarkable part of this transformation is the effect that it has had in the mentality of the citizens (or maybe it was the other way around?): in Montreal, the city truly is for its people, and people care for and participate in public matters to a degree that I have rarely seen. I believe, because of this mentality, Montreal has a serious chance of actually fulfilling the vision of a smart city built for and by communities.

 

 

The steps of Place des Arts serve as a public space, popular with everyone on a sunny day.

 

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The Montreal Model

Montreal’s outstanding mentality for public participation has – luckily – also been recognized by the current smart Montreal’s front-runners, mayor Denis Coderre and Vice-President of the Smart and Digital Office, Harout Chitilian. In their campaigns for a smarter Montreal, they enthusiastically encourage the citizens to voice their opinions and share their ideas:

 

“This ambitious project of making a smart and digital city will take advantage of new technologies, but above all it will draw on the collective intelligence to create a specific Montreal model. I count on you, Montrealers to give your opinions on the various forums that are available to you. I invite you to participate today. The floor is yours!”

 

– (translated from French) Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal, 2014

 

 

 

 

Focus on citizens is visible in the public space. In this project residents of Montreal share their unique stories in a virtual exhibition.

 

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As part of the public participation process, the city has developed a web portal, “Faire MTL” (Make Montreal), where Montrealers are offered the chance to contribute to, comment on, collaborate with and follow 180 tangible projects that are to be implemented over the next couple of years. The ambitious plans also include the creation of physical spaces for innovation and co-creation, along with the use of public spaces as living laboratories for the growing smart communities.

 

The fusion of a genuinely open and inclusive government and the natural participatory spirit of the Montrealers, makes Montreal a key player to follow in the game of defining how future (smart) cities could be shaped and function at the hands of the citizens.

 

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Every summer Sainte-Catherine Street (the city’s commercial high street) transforms into a pedestrian street, allowing citizens to walk, shop, eat and enjoy the city life.

 

Find more about Montreal’s projects here.

 

 

August 25, 2015

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Camilla Siggaard Andersen

 

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Edited by IluvMTL
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