Photo du Jour – Urban Language Breakdown

Langage Urbain

This sculpture entitled “Langage Urbain” by Ken Story has stood in front of the Bank of Montreal Telus building on Réné-Levesque, corner University, since 1992. Originally, the two massive earhorns were engineered to rise and fall, always out of synch, briefly brushing by eachother along their paths. Even at the age of 12, that was a metaphor I could grasp.

These days, the two earhorns sit snuggled together, as if they are whispering secretes. According to a security guard at the building, “Langage Urbain” broke down 2 or 3 years, due to some kind of technical problems. Analyze that, art students.


  1. I remember pausing to watch this thing in my final year at Dawson College in 1993.
    LOL, you were 12? Crikers, I feel older now.
    Thanks a lot Alanah :P

  2. I hate that thing. Gorgeous building though. Gordon Bundshaft/ SOM. Same period as the Lever House.

  3. Why did you scratched the words Bank of Montreal?

  4. Because the building’s anchor tenant is now Telus, they probably paid a hefty amount to get their name posted at the top of the building. It used to be mainly occupied by Bank of Montreal and was originally known as CIL House.

    Personally one of my favourite pieces of Montreal real estate, it gives a very financial “feeling” to the area, untypical of Montreal would fit in perfectly in the middle of Manhattan

  5. When i went in the other day to enquire about the sculpture, I noticed that i was entering the “Telus Building.” Back in ’92 when the scupture was put up, I was pretty sure this was a bank of mtl building. However, according to a web article i just found, it used to be called “Maison Trust Royal.”

    by the way, the guy i talked to said that they are in the process of getting the thing running again.

  6. Actually it was built as CIL House for the HQ if Canadian Industries Ltd. in the late 1950’s. When The Royal Bank and CIBC were building their new Montreal digs, the Bank of Montreal decided to make the building an annex to their St James Street HQ so that they would have a presence in Montreal’s new mid-town financial district.

  7. I’d be curious to know what kind of activities Telus has in this building, since they already rent out a significant portion of the Sun Life building for various call centres as well as occupy another building out in St-Laurent

  8. Thanks for the clarification, I am a big fan of Montreal, here from boring boston.

  9. It’s certainly symbolic, the breakdown of the sculpture. I would describe it as such:

    Shot through the heart/And you’re to blame
    (Honey) You give love/A bad name


  10. That corner around Union and Beaver Hall Hill is very lower Manhattan with all the older limestone buildings plus this gem.

  11. Telus has virtually no presence in the building. They just pay to have their name on the top so that it appears above the Bell logo when looking up Beaver Hall or on most north looking views of downtown.

  12. Hi there!

    The building had the name Royal Trust on the front in 1975 when I first arrived in Montreal. Was CIL before that. That’s where I had my very first job – as a secetary. When the sculpture was installed, I was always mesmerized by the continuous, repetitive movements, out of sync, always moving towards connecting, but for just an instant. Not sure what it’s meant to convey.

    I hope they get it going again soon.

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