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Modern Architecture in Montreal

By Slava Borisov | Last updated : 26/Mar/2016 16:00
Modern Architecture
Montreal’s contribution to modern architecture is considerable. As early as in the 1920s, the city’s industrial architecture won the admiration of the likes of Le Corbusier, who would become a modernist icon.

Modernism arrived in Montreal in the mid-20th century and was spurred by the unfolding Quiet Revolution. I.M.Pei's Place Ville-Marie is one of the style's most prominent achievements, not the least because of its height. Others include the Westmount Square complex by Mies van der Rohe and the Tour de la Bourse by Pier Luigi Nervi and Luigi Moretti.

The story of local modernism-inspired transformations is not without its share of tragedies. The razing of the "faubourgs" – old, mostly working-class neighborhoods surrounding Old Montreal (of the kind which are now carefully studied, in vain attempt to recreate what had been so nonchalantly destroyed) – to be replaced with the soulless, then-modern boxes (now showing their age) or simply with parking lots – this was particularly the trend along the wind-swept Boulevard René-Lévesque (formerly Dorchester) – is just one of the several court-marshallable urban planning "missteps" made during the era. Then again, such barbarity and disregard for the urban environment was hardly limited to Montreal.

After 1980, architects started deviating from the precepts of modernism. Buildings built in Montreal after this date enjoy a lot more freedom in terms of their aesthetics. Their forms may not be as "pure" and abstract, but in contrast to site-destroying modernism, the best (post-)modern buildings are thoroughly "at home" on their site. The Pointe-à-Callière by Dan Hanganu is a good example of form following siting, to modify the famous aphorism.

It should be noted that Montreal is not merely a playground of foreign starchitects like I.M.Pei and Mies van der Rohe: the city has also served as a launching pad for many local talents. Both McGill University and the Université de Montreal have world-renowned architecture programs. Moshe Safdie, the architect who gave the city its iconic Habitat 67, is a graduate of McGill University.

Showing 12 places of interest:

  1. Habitat 67
    2600 Avenue Pierre-Dupuy, Montreal, Quebec H3C 3R6
    An innovative housing complex designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie.
  2. Biosphere (Biosphère)
    160 Chemin du Tour-de-L'Isle, Montreal, Quebec
    Currently the largest spherical building in the world, the Biosphere was originally built for the 1967 World Expo by renowed American architect and inventor Bucky Fuller. A later fire destroyed its roof/skin and the structure had to be rebuilt with a new “look” in the mid-1990s.
  3. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal)
    1380 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, Quebec
  4. Canadian Centre for Architecture
    1920 Rue Baile, Montreal, Quebec
  5. Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History
    350 Place Royale, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 3Y5
  6. Place Ville-Marie
    1 Place Ville-Marie, Montreal, Quebec
  7. Tour de la Bourse
    800 Square Victoria, Montreal, Quebec H4Z 1A9
  8. L’Institut de tourisme et d’hôtellerie du Québec
    3535 Rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, Quebec H2X 3P1
  9. Palais des Congrès
    1001 Place Jean-Paul Riopelle, Montreal, Quebec
  10. 1250 René-Lévesque (La Tour IBM-Marathon)
    1250 Boulevard René-Lévesque Ouest, Montreal, Quebec
  11. Place J.-P. Riopelle
    A modern public square, designed to correct urban planning mistakes of the previous decades, features a fountain sculpture by Quebec artist Jean-Paul Riopelle, whose name the square bears.
  12. Grande Bibliothèque
    475 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal, Quebec H2L 5C4