Tag Archives: Montreal

Canadian Lessons for Winter Cities

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As the mercury begins to rise above zero in many Canadian cities in March, it’s tempting to pretend that we’ll never again have to bundle up and suffer through frozen-numb faces and temperatures colder than Mars. Though probably required to alleviate our collective cabin fever, in reality about one quarter of our lives in northern cities is spent dealing with winter and its many discontents. This annual recurrence of snow and slush, blizzards and black ice, has largely and traditionally been ignored by urban planners and designers whose work tends to focus on making our cities and spaces livable and functional for only three quarters of the year. Lately, however, a movement has been gaining momentum that is challenging this seasonal myopia and is seeking innovative solutions to combat this oversight.

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Four case studies in transit visual identity

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Rapid transit has become a nearly-ubiquitous part of urban life since it was introduced in Victorian London. How do transit systems around the world use design to brand themselves and promote wayfinding, and how much do their visual identities recall the original London Underground? Continue reading

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Who cares about the ‘burbs?

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Do the suburbs really matter? If you happen to live there, the answer is an obvious yes. But if you live in a more downtown neighbourhood, replete with parks and pedestrians, coffee houses and kitchen libraries, is there any reason to care what goes on “out there?” There are, of course, many reasons. Let me outline three of them. Continue reading

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The City in 3D

Maps may be the closest thing to a universal language of urban space, allowing people with diverse experiences to share a common understanding of space, but it’s almost impossible to avoid flattening out an already unappreciated dimension of urban experience: height (and depth).

We humans aren’t great at talking about the third dimension. We’ve never been very good at getting off the ground and our vocabulary for elevation is poorly developed. A novelist can paint a picture with words and a musician can evoke a feeling with sound, but the third dimension is more like smell: we all know it very personally but have difficulty sharing that understanding with others or even describing it to ourselves. We all know how being above or below, ascending or descending affects our lives personally, but except in the most extreme cases, we have to keep it to ourselves. Continue reading

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A Touch of Green in Montreal

Even during the summer months Montreal’s urban core can feel a little cold and hard at times. Sentier Urbain has taken it upon itself to lighten things up and spread a little bit of green around the downtown. The organization has not simply planted a few trees or set up shop in one location. Instead, it has developed a series of gardens throughout the city, each with a different theme.

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The Potential of Planned and Abandoned Spaces

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” said Robert Burns famously. But I would add that’s where the coolest stuff starts to happen. Many of us now, for better or for worse, live in planned spaces or neighbourhoods that are built on spec and are subject to land use planning guidelines. When interruptions in these plans occur, opportunities for innovation and creativity arise. They represent the chance to introduce something new into the pattern, perhaps only temporarily, but sometimes with a more lasting effect on the landscape, and moreover, on the people who live there.

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Experiencing the City through its Street Patterns

By Jake Tobin Garrett

Nothing gets you quite as acquainted with a city’s street system than by being a tourist. This summer I had the opportunity to hit up a few different North American cities–Vancouver, Montreal, New York, Boston, and Minneapolis–each with their own street pattern eccentricities. Some of the cities, like Vancouver, I was extremely familiar with (having lived there up until 2010), while others I had only a passing familiarity or none at all. Wandering around these different cities got me thinking about how the very backbone of a city—its street pattern—shapes the wider experience of the city itself, one that is more personal.

Now, in the age of the iPhone, when even six year olds seem to be able to orient themselves using GPS technology, perhaps the navigability of a city’s street system doesn’t seem that important. Who cares about our mental maps when we have a pixelated one right in the palm of our hand?

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