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Bus-art is all around

by Archives March 31, 2009

You’re carrying your schoolbag with two textbooks and a laptop, as well as a tote bag filled with groceries. You’re exhausted, you’re beat. But as you shlump down on that bus shelter bench, take a moment to pause and drink in the everyday art that is sitting all around you. Let me share my love of bus shelter art with you. A good shelter is just that, a shelter; it is a place to relax, and reflect. They are mini-temples of transit.
The history of the Montreal bus shelter is long and colourful. Jean-Loup Desabris is the man who had a vision of the beauty of humble, common shelter. His tenure at la Société du transport de Montréal in the 1960’s influenced the design of the older bus shelters. This Concordian reporter got to the bottom of the garbage pile in the bus shelter.
“Desabris believed in the art of the bus shelter. It is the magic of the everyday,” says Andre Ballhouse, the resident transit historian at UQAM.
Desabris was inspired by the early minimalist Japanese style “mimukuza”, which can be seen in the pebble base and the openness of the roof.
His dying wish was to expire in his beloved No. 55 bus shelter, near his home.
Decades later in the late 1990’s at la Société, Desabris’ self-appointed successor Jeanne Morneau-Chancy brought in the new circular-roofed shelters with long, open windows. Her chief influence is Ganz Mitterhoffen, the Bavarian master of the modern German Busschutzen style. Morneau-Chancy continues to work at la Société, and I and many other bus enthusiasts eagerly look forward to her upcoming high-tech, Swedish-style Lotus bus shelters, complete with A/C, coming summer 2012.
The garish ads that are main fixtures in the newer bus shelters subtract from the essence of a bus shelter. Shelters are a place to relax, to wait pleasantly for the bus, to chat with random people.
They are not a place to stare at banks ads, phone ads or any other kind of ads.
They are also not the place to leave empty bags of chips, and other such refuse. Please, for the sake of the sanctity of these transit temples, do not drop your garbage all over the altar of bus.
And as for graffiti, I actually admire the touch people choose to personalize their bus shelters. As long as shelter is not marked up beyond recognition, a good graffiti brings originality and art to an otherwise normal shelter.
“I’ve been coming to this 105/162 bus shelter on Sherbrooke for 26 years and 3 months. For awhile, it was even my home. It was my shelter from the world, you could say,” says Bernie Hollings, 54, a pool cleaner from N.D.G., once homeless.
Each bus shelter is marked by stories that make them unique architectural gems. Seek out your bus shelter, and sniff out a special story.

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