An unintentional public space

constructionon Ste-Cath

This observation was submitted by Darniel Rotsztain, a student of Urban Geography at McGill University. Read his other articles on Spacing Montreal.

The ongoing construction along Sainte-Catherine, as part of the Quartier des Spectacles rejuvenation project, has been extremely disruptive to the flow of traffic and businesses in the area. Whether the disruptions are worth it remains to be seen, but in the face of the construction, I have found it interesting to experience an unintentional side effect: Sainte-Catherine and its surrounding roads, usually bustling thoroughfares, have transformed into calm streetscapes.

For instance, the dead ends resulting from the construction at the intersection of Sainte–Catherine and Saint-Laurent have a created pseudo public spaces. This was especially noticeable when I attended a concert at Metropolis. After the show let out, concertgoers happily loitered in the middle of the street despite the few taxis that were trying to make their way through. For a moment it felt like I was at a bustling public square, alive with aimless city dwellers, a scene I imagine repeating itself nightly.

Urban space is constantly changing, creating either hospitable or uninviting places, sometimes by planning and often by chance. It’s amusing that in the city’s very intentional attempt to create a more desirable streetscape has inadvertently provided a place that many seem to enjoy the way it is.

The way that citizens inhabit the space at Sainte-Catherine Saint-Laurent prove that city beautification projects are not as simple as “if you make it pretty, they will come”. Despite the arguably ugly backdrop of concrete and construction, people seem to enjoy this space. This can be attributed to a few serendipitous elements: the fact that hundreds of people are drawn to the location nightly, the lack of car traffic and the weather, to name a few. But, as with all things in the city, the construction will end, and a whole new experience of the space will be realized. It will be interesting to see if the intentional urban planning of this intersection within the Quartier des Spectacles will yield similar success.

One comment

  1. Cars in the city core are like the dude we don’t want to come to our party but we’re afraid not to invite because he whines so much if he’s not invited. But when he can’t make it we actually don’t miss him that much.

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