Montreal, our island | Bota Bota, spa-sur-l'eau

Design & Fashion

Montreal, our island

By Heidi Hollinger

When I went to CEGEP in the late 80s, my friends and I would go and explore abandoned factories on the Lachine Canal. I would take photos which I later developed in my dark room at home in a small closet on the top floor. When the structures reappeared before my eyes as I developed them, I was mesmerized by the decrepit beauty. The industrial buildings were somewhat forlorn and majestic at the same time.

After having travelled around the globe for the past four years on a documentary series on port cities, I am transfixed by an altogether different type of construction. Starchitects caught my eye. It all started with Le Corbusier and la Cité Radieuse in Marseille, then some Calatrava in Valencia, a Jean Nouvel springing up in Doha, a Frank Gehry in Panama, and the Gherkin, the Walkie-Talkie, the Testicle, and the Cheese Grater adorning the City of London. It got me thinking about what we have here in Montreal that defines us, that makes us unique and that makes us proud.

Montreal is spotted with gems. Expo 67 left us with some of our most remarkable landmarks. Bucky Fuller’s geodesic dome and Moshe Safdie’s Habitat ’67 make us stand out. And the Olympic stadium, built by renowned French architect Roger Taillibert (also known for Parc des Princes, home of Paris St. Germain!), with all its faults, is close to my heart as home to our beloved Expos and my childhood memories. Actually, has got it all pinned down with our local treasures on their tees, Orange Julep and all!

Coming back to Montreal from abroad is a real gift. Patriotism aside, this city is as good as it gets. Half French, half English: double the possibilities and opportunities.

But if there is one thing we need, it’s more access to water! This is, after all, an island. The Old Port needs to reinvent its waterfront and bring to life neglected areas that no longer serve their vocation. The most inspirational refurbishing project I’ve seen so far is the Tel Aviv Port Public Space Regeneration by Mayslits Kassif Architects, where the harbour was restructured into a huge undulating wooden dock made to emulate the sand dunes in the desert. Back at home, the Clock Tower beach, Bota Bota, and the Quai Atwater are steps in the right direction to bringing us back to our river.

And wouldn’t Bilbao’s Guggenheim look great in our Port?

Related articles
Interview with Bota Bota – La Relève team
Good neighbouring