QIM: a neighbourhood by design: an exhibition on the new Quartier international de Montral

From June 21st to September 16th, 2006, Montreal’s architecture gallery MONOPOLI presents QIM: A neighbourhood by design, an exhibition on the new Quartier international de Montral. Curator Nancy Dunton presents an intelligent and playful reading of this new 27-hectare territory, revealing what was there before and how architecture, infrastructure, landscape and urban design have reshaped this part of the city. But does this massive intervention transform the QIM into a true neighbourhood?

Inaugurated in 2004, the Quartier international de Montral (QIM) is an outstanding urban ensemble remarkable for the coherence of its design and the uniqueness of its concept and creative process. The architects and urbanists Daoust Lestage, in consortium with architects Provencher Roy + associates, surrounded themselves with a team of engineers, landscape designers and industrial designers to carry out a clearly defined vision of the project, working on it on every scale: from the urban to the object. Equally important to the creation of the QIM is the unique private public partnership that financed it, bringing together the different levels of government, the City of Montreal, the Caisse de dpt et placement du Qubec and the Landlords Association of the Quartier international de Montral. Whether you judge it by the number of tourists sauntering through it or by the impressive number of awards it has won, QIM is clearly a success. But is this quartier, with its perfect appearance, the magic answer?

In a 2004 interview for the New Yorker magazine, Jane Jacobs speaks about New York: “People looking for a date on Third Avenue make it into a place of hope and expectation, and this has nothing to do with architecture. Those are the emotions that draw us to cities and they depend on things being a bit messy. The most perfectly designed place can’t compete. Everything is provided, which is the worst thing we can provide.”

Can you effectively stake out a territory within a city and declare it an international zone? Should cities seek to reinforce identities of neighbourhoods or to create new identities?

The Quartier international de Montral has been designed at multiple levels, physically and psychologically. It has repaired the great rupture in the urban fabric created by the 1974 construction of the trench/tunnel that is the Ville Marie expressway; it has created new public spaces in Place Riopelle and rejuvenated Square Victoria; its street furniture and generous sidewalks speak a language that differentiates the QIM from Old Montreal to the south and the downtown core to the north. But how do the borders of the quartier relate to any historic definition? Is this intervention viable for the long term surely the acid test of good architecture? Does it run the risk of creating a design philosophy to which only the original members subscribe? Is the intriguing public-private relationship that created the quartier a model that can manage the ongoing life of QIM? These are just some of the questions the exhibition asks, and encourages visitors to find their own answers.

A bilingual conversation on the QIM will take place on Wednesday, June 21st at 7:00pm. The conversation concerns whether or not it is possible to create a neighbourhood in the heart of a city. Taking part in this conversation is Clment Demers, General Director of the Quartier international de Montral and Nancy Dunton, curator of the exhibition. Admission is free, but reservations are required by calling (514) 868-6691.

Gallery MONOPOLI’s locale within the Quartier international gives it a remarkable opportunity to examine its immediate neighbourhood. The intent of the exhibition is to cast a critical eye on the Quartier international de Montral and to incite the visitor to do the same, to exit the gallery, look around, and read the quartier with different eyes. Ninety-minute guided walking tours one in English and one in French – will be presented every Saturday afternoon at 2:00pm from June 24th to August 12th 2006. The departure point will be at the gallery. A suggested contribution is $5 per person.

The Galerie MONOPOLI is located at 181 Saint-Antoine West in Montreal. For more information, please visit www.galeriemonopoli.com