An urban delight in Montréal

For many cities around the world, urban design has become the new mantra. Montreal, UNESCO City of Design, is fast becoming a leader in terms of prioritizing pedestrian activity over vehicular traffic. The city, which has spent a number of years revitalizing its urban infrastructures, is taking every opportunity to transform its neighbourhoods, widening its sidewalks and turning street intersections into small gathering spaces or mini-gardens.

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Photo credit: Maud Thery

One of its most recent interventions, Place Monique-Mercure, is a vibrant example of this new urban trend. The firm responsible for this recent project is civiliti, known for its numerous urban design and landscape architecture projects that have had a profound impact on the fabric of Montreal over the last two decades.

The program

The program called for a small urban oasis with seating, lighting, and scenic components. The site is a widened sidewalk located just outside a historic Art Deco theatre in the lively Outremont district. Removing a few parking spaces along the street allowed the designers to provide neighbours and passersby with a place to sit, chat, and enjoy street life. Free space around the bench units can also accommodate impromptu theatrical events.

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Photo credit: civiliti

The inspiration

Named after Monique Mercure (1930-2020), one of Quebec’s most celebrated actresses, the concept was inspired by the Art Deco style which characterizes the adjacent 1929 Outremont Theatre. This historic reference is perhaps best understood when looking at the project’s three lightboxes. The floral pattern reproduced on the sides and top of these lantern-like objects is a reinterpretation of a wall motif found above the auditorium’s decorative pilasters. Artist Emmanuel Biffa had designed these, as he collaborated with architect René Charbonneau on the 1929 theatre.

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Photo credit: Maud Thery

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Photo credit: Maud Thery

The layout

The concept was developed with the intention of providing an outdoor living space amenable to neighbours, theatre goers, and passersby. A long, winding granite ribbon weaves around the site, providing multiple seating arrangements for families, couples, or for the solitary flaneur. Three lightboxes act as lanterns to punctuate the public space and provide it with a warm glow at night.

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Photo credit: Maud Thery

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Photo credit: Maud Thery

The materials

The Art-Deco theatre was an inspiration for the designers as they chose the materials for Place Monique-Mercure. A rich, brown granite, quarried from Quebec mountains, was used for the site’s long bench. Douglas fir was selected for the seating areas, matching the colour of the theatre’s doors.

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Photo credit: Maud Thery

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Photo credit: Maud Thery

National Urban Design Award

Place Monique-Mercure received a Mention (Urban Fragments category) in the 2022 edition of the National Urban Design Awards. Organized jointly by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), and the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA), this biennual award program is one of the top distinctions in Canada.

About civiliti

Founded by Peter Soland and Fannie Duguay-Lefebvre, civiliti is a Montreal-based urban design and landscape architecture firm known for its contemporary interventions. One of the firm’s most noteworthy projects is Escales découvertes (Discovery Halts), on the iconic Mount Royal Heritage Site, for which the firm (with Julie Margot design) received numerous awards.


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