Saturday, September 20, 2008

Vancouver Lights Travels: Montreal + Ottawa

Vancouver Lights Travels is a semi-regular feature detailing travels outside the Vancouver area, which is usually the focus of this blog. Following is a loose record of a number of buildings visited in Montreal and Ottawa this past summer.

First up was Montreal. There is excellent design all through the city, both contemporary and historical, not the least of which is the subway/metro stations. The original line's stations, completed in the 1960's, feature a great deal of artwork that was commissioned integral to the construction - a fine example of fruitful artist/architect relationships. Forty years on, some pieces have aged better than others, but all display an effort to elevate the subway riding experience and a few stations are a genuine pleasure to spend time in, largely due to the artwork and design. Featured Quebec artists include: Robert LaPalme, Jean-Paul Mousseau, Marcelle Ferron and Jacquest de Tonnacour among others. The photos below are of Jean-Drapeau Station.

Also on the itinerary was a requisite visit to Habitat '67. As with any structure this age, the buildings are showing signs of wear and are in need of what looks like ongoing repair. One wonders how the broad range in Montreal temperatures and weather has affected them and whether their unique method of construction has resulted in increased maintenance issues. That said, Habitat's cascading forms still possess an arresting quality, despite the waves of development in architecture over the last decades and despite the fact they never succeeded as mass-produced units as was originally intended.

Next up was Ottawa Station, designed by John B. Parkin & Associates in 1966. The train station won a Massey Medal for Architecture in 1967 and was also given a Landmark Award by the Ontario Association of Architects last year. Travelling through the station, it's easy to see why. Though some small changes have been made over the years, the station still feels like a cohesive statement. There have been no ungainly additions or radical reworking of interior spaces. It's just a train station, built in the modern idiom that happens to function very well, even after 40 years. As Silvio Baldassarra, VP of NORR, the firm that succeeded Parkin and Associates said in interview in the Ottawa Citizen, "the building is still true to its original intent and design using very few materials and colours".

Finally, following are a few shots of the Museum of Civilization. Designed by Douglas Cardinal and completed in 1989 in Gatineau, Quebec, the museum shows Cardinal's trademark style of undulating forms. Having seen it before only in photographs, it had seemed somewhat impenetrable, however the reality is a building that serves its purpose well and brings a sense of prairie undulation to the nearby nation's capital.

Lastly, in the spirit of the Montreal Metro system, here is an article by Mark Kingwell that appeared in the Globe and Mail on Saturday September 20th on the merits of exploring cities by subway:

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