Humanizing the Cityscape

CCA Looks at Montreal From the People’s Perspective

  • Photo Courtesy of CCA Montreal

The 20th century gave rise to myth of the architect hero—someone who swoops in and cures social woes through their buildings.

But after architects cut the ribbons on these so-called architectural marvels, the public is left to deal with the flaws. This issue is what the newest Canadian Centre for Architecture exhibit ABC : MTL aims to explore, starting Nov. 13.

“Sometimes even architects are not aware of some of the consequences, even positive consequences, [of their work],” said Fabrizio Gallanti, associate director of public programs at the CCA. “It’s more interesting to see people who are working or living very well outside of architecture.”

Two-dimensional images fail to take into account the people who inhabit these buildings.

While the mainstream media obsesses about the Bilbao Guggenheims and Bird’s Nest Stadiums of the world, the CCA swivels the discussion towards the impact of Montreal’s local architecture, highlighting the stories of those who live in and contribute to shaping the city.

Last June, the CCA put out a call for project proposals that would eventually form ABC : MTL. Locals and foreigners, regardless of background, were encouraged to propose projects across a range of media—from research to illustration to multimedia.

The CCA recognizes Montreal as “a complex overlapping of identities and spaces,” said Gallanti.

The resulting mix of multimedia installations exposes both personal and analytical accounts of Montreal’s urban landscape. The applicants to the exhibit showed interest in describing the city in their own way, pushing the idea of multiple realities, said Gallanti.

“I think one of the premises was, rather than look at the iconic monuments of the city and the architectural development, to [focus on] the everyday fabric of city,” said Curatorial Coordinator Simon Pennec.

“You have to acknowledge that you don’t know everything. There may be local conditions that escape your knowledge,” said Gallanti. “These [projects] are coming quite often from people that we never would have been able to find ourselves.”

Of the 100-odd proposals received, at least 70 were chosen for ABC : MTL, and all applications, including those not accepted, will be made available to the public.

As well, the exhibit will change throughout its run, with some projects coming down and others being installed in their place.

“The city changes, so the exhibition would be changing all the time,” said Gallanti. “Compared to other endeavours in the past, [ABC : MTL] is a much more fluid, spontaneous, self-organized way of working.”

The exhibition is backed by a robust public programming; speakers, debates and educational events will play an integral role in generating a truly comprehensive vision of the city.

“Ideally [the exhibit] will be a forum of discussion for the city. We want people to be stimulated to see ‘darker’ sides of [Montreal],” said Gallanti.

With exhibition and programming already in place, whether the potential is fulfilled depends largely on visitors realizing their roles as active participants—not only in ABC : MTL, but also in shaping their home city.

According to Gallanti, “Whether [the public is] against the exhibition or in favour of it, the more [ABC : MTL] generates dialogue, the more it’s a success.”

ABC : MTL Vernissage / Nov. 13 / Canadian Centre for Architecture / 1920 Baile St. / 6:30 p.m. / Free

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