Perspective on the City {No. 11} – the Bickerdyke Pier

The Bickerdyke Pier during its Expo 67 heyday - not the work of the author

I can’t get enough of this picture.

From this perspective we see the Bickerdyke Pier in its Expo 67 glory. In the foreground is Habitat 67 with the assembly crane from Dominion Bridge Co. which demonstrated the work-in-progress aspect of Habitat, a big kick for visitors. Behind Habitat are the Man and the Community and Man and his Health pavilions, Labyrinthe, the Olympic House, Québec Industries Pavilion, the launch site for the Expo Hovercraft, the International Commerce pavilion, the Hospitality Centre and Man and his Music. Key arts and media pavilions were located next to the Place d’Acceuil (the building just above the middle of the pic, with the tent-like roof, next to the stadium with the train-line running out of it); including the Photography and Industrial Design pavilion, the Art Gallery, the Expo Theatre, the International Broadcasting pavilion and the News and Administration pavilion. The Art Gallery is now used by Lotto-Québec, while the theatre has since become Mel’s Cité-du-Cinéma and the Administration pavilion is now used by the Cité-du-Havre Corporation. Condos now stand where the Man and his Community and Labyrinthe pavilions once stood, while the Corby Distillery and a Canada Post sorting facility occupy the former site of the Autostade, which in turn occupied the site of the former Goose Village. Near the top right corner of the picture, you can see the vast parking lot built on land created by piling massive quantities of garbage along the shoreline and then paving it over. After its brief tenure as a parking lot, this space was then transformed into the Victoria STOLport, a short-take-off-and-landing airport similar to Toronto’s Billy Bishop serving a largely business and political crowd. The idea never really ‘took-off’ as it were, and the site was then developed into the Montréal Technoparc, one of at least three I can think of in this city.

As you look down the length of the jetty you’ll notice the Expo Express train and the station near Habitat 67. Consider that this space would have been Expo’s introduction, the appetizer if you will before reaching the spectacular national and thematic pavilions built on the park islands. Consider as well the type of pavilions located here in comparison to what would lie beyond. Note that while the area contained some rather interesting and attractive architecture, it was certainly muted when compared to the other Expo super structures. Consider the centralization of key services in this area and the general-taste atmosphere of the site, its proximity to the city and CBD, not to mention the pairing of communication and transportation infrastructure in the same place. Finally, notice how clean, manicured and modern this space is. Today much of the Pier and the park islands are overgrown, especially the former Place des Nations.

It’s amazing how quickly large tracts of the city can be temporarily ultra-modernized, and then fall back into a more natural state almost as quickly.

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