Architectural/Culture (Old and New), Montreal
Located on Sherbrooke, this museum is do-able in about an hour, maybe a little more. Among the collections you will find art by local Canadians, as well as local artifacts. I thought the carvings from whalebone were incredible!
I also counted about one or two paintings by the masters~Monet, Renoir, you get the idea~but the Dali was missing! Yep, just a gaping hole where it used to be, no explanation!
P.S. I stumbled upon a painting by an Italian artist from my family's hometown of Molfetta, the Renaissance artist Corrado Giaquinto (you wouldn't know him!). What are the chances of that?
I have to admit that most "public" art leaves me cold, particularly the corporate variety. It often seems the sort of thing that warrants an "oh, isn't that interesting (what ever it was)..." but doesn't necessarily entice you to slow your pace as you pass by. This stunning sculpture, on the other hand, caused me to stop dead in my tracks.
Located at 1981 McGill College Avenue in front of the BNP Tower this intricate piece of public art demands study. It is "The Illuminated Crowd" by Raymond Mason. A plaque in front describes the work in the artist's words:
A crowd has gathered, facing a light, an illumination brought about by a fire, an event, an ideology - or an ideal. The strong light casts shadows, and as the light moves toward the back and diminishes, the mood degenerates; rowdiness, disorder and violence occur, showing the fragile nature of man. Illumination, hope, involvement, hilarity, irritation, fear, illness, violence, murder and death - the flow of man's emotion through space.
It was not until I was home and could examine my photograph that I realized that I could identify the emotions on the faces in the crowd.
Fondest memory: I was speechless when we arrived~~well, for a couple of reasons~~standing at the bottom it really is a magnificent sight. Then you have to start climbing the steps! This was especially treacherous on our visit because it had snowed and it was slippery and icy. (Well if the devoted can climb on their knees, we sure can handle this!)
Favorite thing: James McGill (1744-1813) was the founder of the university which bears his name 180 years afters its creation. The inscription reads "Fur trader, merchant, magistrate, Colonel of the Militia, Defender of Montreal, Member of the Legislative Assembly and Executive Councillor of Lower Canada, Citzen of Montreal and Founder of McGill University." This bronze is the work of noted British artist David Curzon-Roper (b. 1965), and it was unveiled in 1996 on the occasion of 175th anniversary of the university's official charter (which came from King George IV).
Favorite thing: I attended a conference here in November 2012. The Canadian Pacific Railroad built this to coincide with the 1967 Exposition in Montreal, which marked the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. It was the first tall buildng in the city to be designed by a Francophone Quebeçois, Roger D'Astous (1926-1998). (D'Astous had studied with Frank Lloyd Wright in Arizona,) When I took a cab into downtown from the airport, the taxi driver referred to this as the "cheese grater" tower.
Favorite thing: 47 story office tower, an archteypal example of the "international style". Half a century old! (It really has become a classic, IMHO.) The structure dates from 1962, when it was constructed to be the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada. (The HQ of RBC left Montreal for Toronto in 1976, but their regional offices are still here.) It was designed in the shape of a cross by that clever fellow I.M. Pei (in association with Henry Cobb.) (Crosses have a great significance in the history of Montreal.) Pei also designed the extensive underground plaza as well.
Favorite thing: A vital part of the Place des Arts is the large scale building that houses the Theatre Maisonneuve. The theatre seats 1500 people with a classic proscenium stage format. It was designed by the local architectural firm of David, Barott & Boulva, and opened in 1967 - in time for the famous "Expo" of that year. The structure certainly presents a facade in keeping the stark brutalism of so much 1960s design - although I've read that inside the theatre, the acoustics and sight-lines are excellent. Stll, it's not exactly an inviting structure!
Favorite thing: Interesting "Flamboyant Dutch" style building, originally constructed as a Fire Station, now housing the fascinating Montreal History Center. Architects Joseph Perrault and Simon Lesage. The building dates from 1903.
Favorite thing: Place dYouville is the home of the striking old Hospital of the Sisters of Charity, associated with Montreal pioneer Marguerite d'Youville - their organization popularly known as the Grey Nuns. This is 18th century construction, much renovated but still preserving its traditional facade. A National Historic Site of Canada.
Favorite thing: This central Montreal memorial, located in Dorchester Square, is really a very clever piece of public art. It emphasizes the central role of Laurier in bringing about reconciliation between Anglophone and Francophone Canada. I've read that it is significant that the sculpture faces south, because Laurier was an early proponent of a free-trade agreement with the United States - a policy which would undercut Canada's long-standing economic ties to Great Britain. There's also significance in the coming together of the wheat of the prairies and the maple leaves of the forests. The sculpture was the work of Joseph-Emile Brunet (1893-1977), whose work can also be seen in Ottawa.
Favorite thing: This area of Montreal was known as the Golden Square Mile, for its remarkable concentration of wealth and power, mostly Anglophone. This hall, now part of McGill University, is representative. It was orignally built in 1907 as a private residence for Sir Mortimer Davis (1866-1928), Montreal born businessman, known as "The Tobacco King". (Davis in 1916 was the first Jewish individual to receive a knighthood for services to the Empire.) The Beaux-Arts mansion was designed by Scottish born architect Robert Findlay (1859-1951). It is now the home of the McGill University Department of Epidemiology‚ Biostatistics and Occupational Health.
Upon his first visit to Montreal, Mark Twain said: "This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window." So it is no wonder that Montreal has been nicknamed "the city of hundred churches." But these days church is not what it used to be. In an era of declining Mass attendance and the rising cost of repairing worn buildings, the Catholic Church in Montreal has downsized.
Fondest memory: While entering Little Italy (Petite Italie), a visitor will undoubtably notice the old Saint-Jean-de-la-Croix church. This towering building is rather massive and cathedral-like. At first glance, the imposing stone building still resembles a church, but a discerning eye will notice the latest Montreal real estate trend "church gone condo". On the side of the church, where once stained glass windows used be, now stand small metal balconies. In 1999, the Catholic Church allowed a residential developer to redesign the inside of the church and turn it into condominums. Needless to say this event was controversial. Long time residents of Little Italy frowned upon the idea of turning the neighbourhood church into a residential building. Despite the neighbourhood disapproval, the opportunity to live in an elegant, older building with modern plumbing and deluxe interior was difficult to pass up for those who could afford it. Most units sold quickly, despite steep prices. Then again, a hefty mortgage is a small price to pay for ensuring that you will always be in church on Sunday mornings.
Favorite thing: Dawson College is an English language institution in Montreal's Westmount neighborhood. After several earlier locations, the college has settled into the impressive buildings that once housed the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame, a Roman Catholic priory. The institution occupies a full block between Sherbrooke Street and de Maisonneauve Boulevard. The main builidng, with an impressive dome atop a former chapel, was originally constructed in the first decade of the 20th century. Its architect was Jean-Omer Marchand (1873-1936), Quebec born but professionally educated at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Favorite thing: Now the Hotel St. Paul, a renovated boutique hotel in Old Montreal, on Rue McGill close to the area known as Multimedia City. This is a vibrant urban neighborhood for the 21st century. The structure was originally constructed as offices for the Grand Trunk Railway Co. It was designed by the architect Alexander Cowper Hutchison, who also designed the beautiful Erskine and American United Church, now part of the Musee des Beaux-Arts.
Fondest memory: The rowhouses in the Plateau area are so colourful. Many have detailed carvings, iron staircases, and balconies. This has become an expensive part of Montreal to live in, with so many cafes and restaurants within walking distance.