Between 1955 and 1980 the Montreal Canadiens were the greatest hockey team in the world as they won the Stanley Cup 14 times. The city peaked in that era and held two world class events – Expo 67 and the ’76 Olympics. Despite the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which opened in ’59 and supposedly signaled the death of Montreal, the city flourished, it moved forward. In ’69 it became the first place outside the USA to host a major league baseball team, the Expos. Despite political uncertainty in the 60’s and 70’s there was a remarkable underlying belief that no matter what might happen, Montreal would remain a world class city and an important player on the international stage.
Not any more.
While other cities are creating a sustainable future by envisioning and developing alternative means of transportation and protecting existing as well as creating new green spaces, Montreal seems to be settling into a hopeless repetition of Modernist planning. The golf course around the airport is being dug up and the new attitude seems to be that if you throw a few shrubs on a thing it somehow gets better.
The Turcot Interchange, however, is a glorious example of Modernist planning. It is also one of Canada‘s strongest icons in transportation. To level it is like turning the Eiffel Tower into a 3 storey boutique with an observation deck. And placing grass, bushes, and trees around it is simply window dressing the issues and actually promotes the insane idea that having thousands and thousands of fossil fuel burning vehicles driving into the city core everyday is somehow a good thing.
Every era produces it’s architectural icons – both good and bad. And “Progress” is a concept that changes with each generation according to it’s needs and desires. The Urban Freeway paved over neighborhoods in its’ enthusiastic race to a future of rapid distribution and perpetual economic growth as Modernism claimed it would. The energy was intense but unrenewable.
If all we are really doing is replacing outdated systems or poorly maintained infrastructure with more of the same, then we are destined to continue to live with the issues and will be much less able to adapt to change as it becomes essential. And change will be essential sooner than later as we continue to race enthusiastically into the brave new world of global warming.