Quartier des spectacles: One of the largest urban redevelopment projects of the past decade in Montréal
Quartier des Spectacles is an area of about one square kilometre immediately to the east of the retail business centre in downtown Montréal. For over 100 years, it has been known for its concentration of culture and entertainment. In the second half of the 20th Century, however, its vitality greatly diminished under the influence of urban renewal projects. The overly broad roadways left little room for pedestrians, while vacant lots and large impersonal building complexes dominated the landscape, lending it a negative image.
Re-Focus and a New Vision
In recognition of the sector’s fragility and vulnerability, its major stakeholders gathered at the 2002 Montréal Summit to address the issues heading into the 21st Century. The long-standing performance venues of the district were facing competition from more modern facilities situated outside of downtown. A revitalized real estate market was leading to the disappearance of the vacant lots now being used by the city’s trademark festivals such as the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal and FrancoFolies.
Live, Learn, Create and Play… Downtown
With and for the creative sector: this was the vision adopted by governments, particularly at the provincial and municipal levels, in launching several major projects. Most visible amongst these was the redevelopment of the Place des Arts area in Quartier des Spectacles. Ville de Montréal undertook a four-phase plan for its public spaces, based on a concept designed by the firm Daoust Lestage — Architecture Design urbain. Its orientations included the support and expression of the Quartier’s cultural vocation and making it into a world-class destination, while transforming it into a friendly, balanced and attractive living environment.
The initiative led to the design of four new public spaces in the heart of downtown Montréal: Place des Festivals (6,141 m2), Promenade des Artistes (3,190 m2), Le Parterre (3,455 m2) and, soon to come, Esplanade Clark (5,775 m2). Additionally, downtown’s main commercial artery, rue Sainte-Catherine, was repurposed to also become a functional public space (10,400 m2).
This development concept arose from an intense creative effort in which the public domain is itself seen as a performance space or theatre. Each characteristic, whether of form, materials, urban furniture, even the positioning of trees, seeks to establish and sustain the identity of Quartier des Spectacles, but also to promote the harmonious co-existence of residents, workers and the artistic community. Each new element of space, urban furniture and specialized equipment is designed to facilitate the more efficient staging of outdoor activities, while making it possible for residents of the surrounding neighbourhood and the entire city to reclaim their space in all seasons.