I was in Montreal for the long weekend and I decided to take the time off from writing. I don’t do that very often, but it was the right thing to do this past weekend.
Montreal is one of my favorite cities. I spent quite a bit of time there when I was in my early 20s and I almost ended up at McGill for my undergraduate degree. So I have a soft spot for the place.
One of my friends once described Montreal to me (and contrasted it against Toronto) by saying that it has grandeur. And I think that is exactly the right word.
There are so many moments throughout the city where you just feel its impressiveness. It’s almost as if, from the very beginning, the city knew what it was destined to become.
In contrast to this, urban planner Joe Berridge has, in the past, referred to Toronto as an accidental metropolis. And I think that is a similarly accurate way of describing our city.
Sometimes in Toronto (or perhaps oftentimes, depending on who you ask), you have to scratch a little beneath the surface to find what makes Toronto a truly great city.
It’s as if the city didn’t know what it was destined to become, and built accordingly. Things just happened — accidentally.
Grandeur isn’t usually something that is discussed today in city planning circles. We instead talk about things like angular planes, context and, of course, building height.
But maybe it’s time we rethink our list of requirements. Maybe it’s time we ask ourselves: “Are we creating a city with grandeur?”
Image: Drone photo from the top of Mount Royal
Olmsted brothers is a part of the story, and leveraging its landscape to its fullest. Of course it is true Westmount was not part of Montreal till later (at least officially), but that is the part that captures the imagination, as does the “Old” part.
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Grandeur and beauty…Joe Riley, who served as mayor of Charleston, SC for 10 terms spanning more than 40 years, is often quoted as saying that all citizens deserve and crave beauty. For the citizens of Charleston, he believes the city itself is a beautiful stage on which citizens create more beauty. While he can be credited with city-scale planning efforts that continue to shape the city, he also agonized over small details like the contour of park benches to make certain they were a pleasure to use. Mayor Riley had the vision and courage to maintain and cultivate Charleston’s architectural resources for its citizens before historic preservation became so central to how our cities evolve. The success of that philosophy is evident when visiting this grand and beautiful historic city.
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