Project 365 – Day 53: Square Viger and Old Montreal
Feb 22 2012
I was at a loss for inspiration this morning as to what to go and shoot. Maybe it was the fact it was raining first thing and everything looked dull and flat. I headed toward Square Victoria with the intention of getting some more shots of tunnels in the Underground City, but it was rush hour when I arrived and too many people rushing to work.
Upon exiting I could see the clouds breaking and the sun doing it’s best to brighten up the morning. So I headed down to the old port, hoping to find something of interest.
On rue Saint Paul outside the Marché Bonsecours there are some ice sculptures, although starting to look a bit past their best given the recent warmer days, so I thought I better get some shots before they are gone for good.
Further west along rue Saint Paul, there is Marché de la Villette, a wonderful Boucherie and Charcuterie.
Walking along the rue Port de Montreal I spied a couple of yellow school buses parked alongside the new urban beach and thought they made a nice composition with the blue parasols.
My last stop on today’s photo walk was at Square Viger that sits on top of the Ville Marie Expressway tunnel. Square Viger is one of the oldest in Montreal, built on market spaces dating from the 1810s.
I’ve always liked the concrete structures that are situated in the square between rue Berri and rue Saint Denis – even given the serious neglect they now find themselves in.
The site (called Agora) was designed by sculptor and landscape designer Charles Daudelin (1920-2001) in 1976 and inaugurated in 1981. The area had been devastated by the construction of the metro (Champ-de-Mars Metro station is just one street west) and then by the Ville-Marie expressway.
The design includes a central space surrounded by basins of water, terraces, and interwoven structures and spaces designed to house cafes and shops. Unfortunately due to rejection by the public due to lack of surrounding facilities and being in the center of major road arteries, the original plans for Agora were never realized.
The square’s urban environment is still inhospitable and dominated by traffic on streets serving the expressway and is frequented by the homeless – who, it has to be said, have been drawn to the area since the 19th century.
The area is probably most famous for the Châteauesque Place Viger which overlooks the square (seen in the image below).
Built in 1898, Place Viger was originally a combined railway station and hotel with large landscaped gardens. Due to the depression and the shift of Montreal’s commercial core to the North West, the hotel closed its doors in 1935, followed by the station in 1951 and was sold to the City of Montreal, who renamed it to Édifice Jacques-Viger in 1957.
Two recent key developments may help lead to the restoration of Agora and bring a new lease of life to the area:
Over-shadowing the square on the west side, Montreal’s new French-language superhospital is under construction and slated to open in 2016.
The second good news is the recent announcement that Édifice Jacques-Viger has been purchased by local real estate firms (Jesta Group and PUR Immobilia) for $26.5 million with plans to develop it into a $300 million new urban neighbourhood with retailing, office space and 700 apartments.
Personally, I would love to see Agora at last attain the vision of it’s designer, with cafes and an area for artists and not be demolished. If you feel the same, Héritage Montréal would welcome your support!
Click on any image below to view in gallery format.
Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.