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