Great vacation time in Montreal and Vermont.
For a perspective on public spaces in Montreal, check out the latest Price Tags – Issue 87 – which you can download on my web site (www.pricetags.ca) or click directly from here:
Usually I have to wait for the next issue of PT to provide feedback. Now I can do it on this blog.
As you’ll see, I wrote some positive comments about Parc Emilie-Gamelin (also known as Place Berri) based on the activity I saw there.
Here’s another perspective from PT reader Dan Freeman:
I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree with your laudatory description of Place Berri in downtown Montreal (Jan Gehl’s book “New City Spaces” makes the same mistake, in my opinion)
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While it has some strengths, it is a problematic public space. Based on my experience/observation of this square (most recently in July) it has far too much unprogrammed open space. There are no activities, cafes or vendors here that could draw people to this space in the heart of the city. There is also very limited comfortable and practical seating. Not enough is in the shade, and there isn’t much that would encourage conversations between people – just the usual benches and ledges around some of the edges.
As a result, most of the space is largely empty (except for the odd skateboarders in the blank plaza), and its edges are usually populated by the city’s homeless population who set up camp in the shade and sleep/lounge throughout the day. While they are certainly as entitled to using public space as all other citizens (and in fact the homeless likely depend on it more than most), their overwhelming presence discourages many others who live/work/study downtown from hanging out there. We need to create public spaces which are inclusive and provide places for multiple communities to feel comfortable on a daily basis.
I won’t deny that Place Berri is a fantastic place for public events/concerts/gatherings/protests. It most definitely is. And Vancouver desperately needs such a space. My (exceptionally controversial) suggestion: rebuild much of Robson Square to create a public plaza across the street from the VAG. Don’t tell the architects though, they LOVE this Erickson work, ignoring its failings as a piece of the urban infrastructure.
But I digress. The problem with Place Berri is that it fails ‘the rest of the time’. Public spaces should be designed and programmed for major events, but need to work first and foremost as great every day places.
Thanks once again for the amazing photos and ideas you share through PriceTags. It’s truly an exceptionally generous contribution to the city’s urban dialogue.