The students’ challenge was to reflect on some strategies for presenting Montréal and its attractions by documenting existing urban journeys and creating new urban walks that express the potentials of urban space with issues of environment, heritage, living space and identity in mind.
The result of this process initially revealed the character and nature of suggested journeys within Montréal’s territory based on seven specific themes: art, culture, society, history, heritage, architecture and nature. In the wake of this analysis and the potentials of urban territory, the students produced seven designs for walks encompassing three significant entities of Montréal’s landscape, namely aerial space, underground space and riverfront space.
Montréal en parcours is a “research and project” experiment that promotes a goal upheld by the Building Montréal, UNESCO City of Design initiative, namely the presentation of Montréal’s urban landscapes.
It is also worth noting that this landscape architecture workshop fits in with one of the scientific missions of the UNESCO Chair on Landscape and Environment at Université de Montréal, namely the support of higher education in partnership with local communities and with civil society in a broader sense.
Interest in urban journeys goes hand-in-hand with the history of cities. Urban walks have also been a source of fascination and have produced literature (e.g., Baudelaire or Aragon) and re-creations that bring out a city’s beauty and its distinctive aspects. Nineteenth-century walks even became the subject of a short treatise that raised walking to the rank of an intellectual pursuit (ref.: The Walks or the Art of Walking, by Karl Gottlob Schelle, 1802).
The issue as it concerns Montreal en parcours and their landscape experience remains unresolved. Information is partial and factual. To understand their role and their structure-forming effects in presenting the Montréal landscape, it is essential to document them. What are the various urban journeys in Montréal? What experiences do they produce? In what ways do they go with describing the urban landscape and with Montréal’s identity? What are the various scenarios suggested for discovery and experience? What are the times and seasons for urban journeys? In what way do they contribute to matters at issue in the Montréal landscape? What is the role of urban walks in Montréal?
Beyond the existing journeys that help highlight the area’s attractions and promote experiencing the city, it is necessary to develop new landscape opportunities that will contribute to developing the quality of Montréal’s territory and its attractiveness as a living spaceand a tourism space.
Since the picturesque era of the 19th century, surprisingly few landscape architects and urban designers have shown an interest in creating urban walks. Paradoxically, social interest in walking and urban wandering has been on the rise in recent years. Some cities are developing “pedestrian plans.” Urban walks have also become the subject of sociological thinking (e.g., Rhétorique piétonne, by Michel de Certeau) and philosophical reflection. In addition, information technologies and social media spread across the city and impose new multi-sensory experiences (podcasting, georeferencing, GPS, travel podguides, etc.). They give free rein to the idea of walking and invent paths for urban wandering. Early in the 21st century, we are entering the era of a new “mobile culture.”
These realities call for reflection on the experience of urban discovery and the potentials available to landscape architects and urban designers. How can walking in the city be reinvented? How can landscape experiences (whether felt or imagined) be stimulated to contribute to the quality of the living environments of the urban populace and to bring out the identity of the surroundings? How can a city’s distinctive aspects be unveiled through a journey? How can a city’s attractions be reactivated? How can a 21st-century urban journey be scripted? In what way can a journey be marked in the city? In what fashion does an urban journey require public space to be redeveloped? What might be the social and cultural purpose of urban journeys? Can an urban journey be a linear attraction and/or a juxtaposition of urban attractions and walkways?
Heads in the clouds
- Professor/ Workshop Manager
- Philippe Poullaouec-Gonidec, Full professor and CUPEUM's Chairholder
- Collaboration logistique / suivis
- Lyndsay Daudier, Project Assistant, CUPEUM
- Sylvain Paquette, Assistant professor