Home Arts A cemetery of unrealized architectural projects

A cemetery of unrealized architectural projects

by Maria Bukreev October 27, 2015
A cemetery of unrealized architectural projects

The Montréal Jamais Construit exhibit explores rejected architectural projects

One of the things Montreal is known for is its wide range of architectural styles.

This cardboard model could have become McGill University’s Art Pavilion. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

This cardboard model could have become McGill University’s Art Pavilion. Photo by Andrej Ivanov.

Indeed, within the same city we can find historic buildings in Old Montreal as well as more contemporary structures downtown. Yet, have you ever wondered what the city would look like if some of the many suggested architectural projects hadn’t been rejected?

Thomas Balaban—a university professor, curator, architect and creator of the multidisciplinary studio TBA—asked himself that question, and decided to let us take a look at what Montreal could have looked like under other circumstances.

Montréal Jamais Construit is an exhibit that offers a unique vision of Montreal by introducing us to 13 major projects planned over the last 25 years that ended up being terminated.

Hosted by the Maison de l’Architecture du Québec—a centre that wishes to promote architecture as art in our society—the exhibit fits in well since it shares the same goals. Balaban, along with his colleagues Jennifer Thorogood, Maxime Lefebvre and Julia Manaças, regret the fact that architecture is taken for granted nowadays and that people don’t admire it for its aesthetic value anymore.

There is a caption from one of Brandon Stanton’s Humans Of New York portraits that comes to mind. “We’re all victims of the architect. Architecture is the only art that you can’t help but feel. You can avoid paintings, you can avoid music and you can even avoid history. But good luck getting away from architecture.”

This really explains how important architecture is in our lives and that it is impossible to simply ignore it. Montréal Jamais Construit goes further than simply showing us the beauty of the buildings we see everyday. The exhibit includes 13 model structures, sketches and details about a project’s construction next to a recent picture of the space where it was meant to be built. For each project that was dropped there is a note explaining the reason why it was terminated. Although most projects were rejected while they had only been developed on paper, some were already under construction. One such example was a new baseball stadium that was meant to be downtown—it was almost completed when its construction was called off for financial reasons. Other causes for dropping these projects included either political or aesthetic reasons, resulting in an Orchestre symphonique de Montréal building, or a cultural and administrative complex never being built.

Of course, there’s a number of other projects that were cancelled apart from those mentioned at the MAQ, but the 13 projects imagined between 1990 and 2015 that are displayed could have had a major impact on our city—something to which Balaban wished to draw the visitor’s attention. The importance of the exhibit is in that Montreal’s skyline could have drastically changed had these architectural projects come to life. The team behind the exhibit is now considering making a book with more details and more projects in order to raise awareness on the process of creation.

The exhibit runs from Oct. 23 until Feb. 14 at the Maison de l’Architecture du Québec.

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