The project uses a simple, refined, and minimalist architectural language to create a dialogue between circular and cylindrical forms including a garden of wild grasses, the vestiges of the windmill and a park pavilion in the form of a belvedere-folly. Complementing these gestures, the lighting scheme proposes a chromatic garden that alludes to the changing seasons.
Providing Identity, Civic Pride, and Generous Public Space
Built as a response to the urban revitalisation of a disaffected industrial sector, Square des Frères-Charon is an entirely new public amenity in a space that is more than 150 years old. The new square provides identity, civic pride, and generous outdoor areas for all-season public use.
The Project as a Platform for Research in Design Methodology
Square des Frères-Charon is the result of a rich inter-disciplinary collaboration and an innovative consultation process. The project innovates both in a team approach that encourages members to cross professional boundaries and in the guarantee of public input resulting from the use of novel citizen-friendly communication technologies. Before a specific program was determined or a critical path defined, the city organized a trans-disciplinary design team including an artist, an architect and a landscape architect. The team objective was to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, collaborate, and converge on common ground rather than divide and distribute tasks according to habitual professional domains.
The team employed a variety of communications tools to encourage and facilitate citizen involvement in the design process. Above and beyond more conventional forums such as roundtables and public presentations, a citizen-friendly communications channel was set up on Old Montreal’s web portal to serve as a privileged medium for exchange between the public and the design team. Citizens were encouraged to get informed, to voice their opinions on the future of the square, to comment on the viewpoints of others appearing on the site, and to remain abreast of project progress and developments via the website.
The results of the web consultation provided the design team a portrait of how the existing space was perceived and used, as well as an expression of the expectations and desires of the citizens for the new square. The results formed the basis of the project program and the scheme that was developed was directly linked to public input. Citizens thus became complicit in the creation of a new identity for Square des Frères-Charon.
Connecting Users to their Surroundings
By focussing on the experience of the contemporary city and urban lifestyles, the design team explored concepts from a user’s point of view and initiated a connection with the immediate surroundings. Square des Frères-Charon’s street level public domain was carefully designed to insure it is comfortable, safe, and wheel-chair accessible. Sustainable initiatives include the planting of local species of wild grasses which take a significant load off the municipal irrigation system and the use of durable Quebec granite for hard landscaping and the cladding of the park pavilion.
Achieving Significant Contributions to Quality of Life and Local Tourism within a Modest Budget
Considering the quality of life it provides, Square des Frères-Charon’s 2,2M $ construction cost was a profitable municipal investment. Affordable amenities such as an interpretive program, extensive vegetation and a recycled park pavilion allowed the project designers to control costs while providing significant benefits to residents and the local tourist industry. While modest in scale and budget, the square is an essential component of McGill Street’s larger network of historic spaces and a key element in Montreal’s cultural tourism branding strategy.
Original note in ARCHDAILY