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Competition: Place des Montréalaises, Quebec

The City of Montréal has announced an international contest to design a $34 million CAD public square and pedestrian overpass spanning a busy motorway (Deadline: 26 September)

Open to multidisciplinary teams of architects and landscape architects, the anonymous two-stage competition seeks proposals for a major city-centre public space next to Champ de Mars underground station, to be known as Place des Montréalaises.

The site will be created by building a concrete slab over the Ville-Marie Expressway, which runs through the centre of the city. Once complete, the new space will reconnect Old Montreal – home to the Château Ramezay museum, Hôtel de Ville and Palais de Justice – with its surrounding neighbourhoods.

Contest site: Place des Montréalaises

Contest site: Place des Montréalaises

Source: Image by Marc Cramer

Contest site: Place des Montréalaises

In its brief, the Ville de Montréal says it is looking for ‘the most innovative and creative ideas for the permanent construction of this new public space …

‘This project aims to define an attractive, high-quality urban frame that repairs the cut made to the area by the construction of the Ville-Marie Expressway trench in the 1970s. In so doing, the Ville de Montréal aims to restore ties between the historic city and its former faubourgs and to enhance the high-quality network of public spaces from Square Victoria to Square Viger.’

Montréal is the most populous city within the Canadian province of Quebec. The Old Montréal area overlooking the Saint Lawrence River features many of the settlement’s oldest buildings and civic landmarks.

Following the Great Depression, the area suffered several decades of economic decline which saw many warehouses and residential properties abandoned. Several motorways constructed during the 1960s and 1970s also severed the area from the surrounding city, however recent decades have seen an influx of office and housing conversions.

Competition judges include Marie Pimmel of Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Manon Otto from BIG NYC, the city’s director of infrastructure Chantal Aylwin, and Marie-Éve Beaupré from Montréal’s museum of contemporary art.

Five shortlisted teams will each receive $86,975 CAD to participate in the competition’s second round. The overall winner will receive up to $5.79 million CAD in architectural fees.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is noon local time (EDT), 26 September

Contact details

Caroline Noël
Concours Place des Montréalaises
Ville de Montréal
Service de la mise en valeur du territoire
Direction de l’urbanisme
303, rue Notre-Dame Est, 5e étage
Montréal (Québec)
H2Y 3Y8

Tel: +1-514 872-0311

Visit the competition website for more information

Seattle Sculpture Park case study: Q&A with Michael Manfredi and Marion Weiss

The co-founders of New York-based Weiss/Manfredi discuss lessons learned creating a park above existing infrastructure in Seattle

Michael Manfredi and Marion Weiss

Michael Manfredi and Marion Weiss

Michael Manfredi and Marion Weiss

How did your Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park project unite Seattle’s urban fabric?

The Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park emerged from the unlikely proposition of turning three separate parcels of contaminated land, divided by train lines and highways, into a waterfront public space for the display of art. We suggested a continuous Z-shaped landform that alternately concealed and revealed the roadways and train lines below. Within the boundaries of the site’s nine acres, the earthwork is shaped to create valleys, bridges, ramps, and walkways, beginning at the urban edge with a pavilion for art and concluding at the water’s edge with a newly created beach and underwater habitat for aquatic life. This pedestrian infrastructure allows long-denied free movement between downtown Seattle and the waterfront.

Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park by Weiss/Manfredi

Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park by Weiss/Manfredi

Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park by Weiss/Manfredi

Which architectural, material, planning and other methods did you harness in your design?

The deliberately open-ended design invites new interpretations for architectural, material, and planning methods. The landform’s chameleon section reveals its multiple roles: to elevate the pavilion, cross a highway, bridge over train tracks, and reshape the waterfront. Beneath the surface plantings of this armature, a new subsurface infrastructure consisting of two and a half miles of power, water, telephone, and data lines allows artists to incorporate sophisticated technologies into their work.

Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park by Weiss/Manfredi

Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park by Weiss/Manfredi

Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park by Weiss/Manfredi

The park’s tilting planes create settings for diverse ecological environments, weaving visitors through distinctly different landscape precincts. Throughout the park, landforms and plantings collaborate to direct, collect, and cleanse storm water as it moves through the site before being released into the bay. Slipped concrete retaining walls provide a metering device that links architecture, earthwork, landscape, and art. These walls run along the park’s meadows, where its overlapping panels are engineered to anticipate future seismic shifts in the region. In reshaping the waterfront, the park also stabilised a damaged seawall and created a nearshore habitat as refuge for salmon migration in the Pudget Sound estuary.

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing a new park crossing an expressway in Montreal?

We encourage the participants to embrace an elastic definition of design and look for opportunities that create broader, cross-disciplinary connections.

Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park by Weiss/Manfredi

Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park by Weiss/Manfredi

Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park by Weiss/Manfredi

Q&A with Caroline Noël

The urban planning advisor in Ville de Montréal’s Urban Projects Division discusses her ambitions for the contest

Caroline Noël

Caroline Noël

Caroline Noël

Why are you holding an international contest on a new park at Place des Montréalaises?

Montréal is a UNESCO City of Design, so it was only natural that we open the landscape architecture competition on an international scale, especially since this is a major project for the metropolis in a key area of its city centre. It is also a commitment to UNESCO to promote the mobility of our designers (the need for networks conducive to international cooperation and the openness of the market). Networks allow for an exchange of knowledge between professionals from here and abroad. Finally, the contest allows us to seek out varied ideas and to retain the best of them.

What is your vision for the future of the area?

The future Place des Montréalaises is defined as a place of welcome, of meetings and of discovery becoming a true pivot linking the old city to the new city. This vast public promenade measuring 1.7ha will open up in the direction of city hall and act as a gateway to the ‘administrative city.’ Place des Montréalaises pays homage to the female residents of Montréal who have contributed and still contribute to Montréal’s identity, cultural, social and economic development. In addition, it will remind us of the contribution made by exceptional women to the development of our city.

The proposed site layout must meet the needs of all types of users, as much on a neighbourhood level, for residents, as on a city-wide level for workers and tourists. The technical challenges of development are mainly centred on the installation on a slab, over a highway, which leads to load constraints and limitations as to possible greening. Also, the presence of a highway exit ramp crossing the site requires the construction of a pedestrian footbridge linking the public square to the Montréal heritage site. It is also hoped that the proposed development will be innovative and in line with best sustainable practices.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The competition is aimed at landscape architects, but also requires the presence of architects and engineers in the team. Since the first step is anonymous, it is an opportunity for emerging professionals to showcase their talent as designers. Five finalists will be selected anonymously by the jury and, in the second stage of the competition, they will have to complete their team and also demonstrate their expertise by presenting a completed project for the development of the public domain (square or park) where the cost of construction was a minimum of $10 million, or by presenting three projects of at least $5 million dollars. All eligibility requirements are found in the contest rules.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

This competition is part of the commitments made by Montréal in its Cultural Policy 2017-2022, which aims, as an exemplary city, to stimulate the quality of design throughout the city by facilitating the practice of competitions. Several competitions are in the pipeline and will be announced in the coming weeks or months (libraries and urban development). Follow the newsletter or the Facebook page of Design Montréal.

Areas affected by the deindustrialisation of central districts and the major projects of the 1960s are now destined for a new vocation, particularly along the banks of the St Lawrence River. Also, large institutional sites, mainly hospitals, which have turned into surplus, will be reconverted. Many of these sites have undeveloped areas, and some of the buildings there are of heritage value.

Architects and designers may be asked to make development proposals through design competitions or by traditional means of granting mandates, after vocations and redevelopment markers for these sectors have been subjected to in-depth reflection.

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