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.
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