It’s funny, back during the Expo/Man and His World years (1967-1975) this place would have been teaming with people. It was a major transit point, being served by the Expo Express and connecting to the various pavilions along the Bickerdyke Pier to the Centre d’Acceuil. Today it’s occasionally used as a parking lot or as a logistical centre for music concerts and other festivals. Kind of a huge let-down if you ask me; my parents and relatives described this place as being exceptionally alive and electric – pulsing with good vibes. Today it can be eerily still.
I’ve enjoyed coming here during a snowstorm. I thought at one point that I was alone on the Island, and out at Place des Nations it is very easy to feel alone amongst the ruins of a futuristic city. It’s calming, but in a numbing way. In the Summer and Fall it takes on a different personality – there’s a lot of wildlife calling this part of Ile Ste-Helene home nowadays. It’s overgrown and falling apart, being gently reclaimed by the swampy ecosystem of the islands. It’s a great place to feel the power of the winds of the Saint Lawrence, and though parts are in dire need of repair, it seems as if the space could be made a functional public space with minimal investment. Parts seem to have been spared, or at least were designed to retain their elegance a little longer. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a preferred location for fashion or wedding photo shoots.
I guess the City won’t put any real investment into Place des Nations unless there’s more use, and more use would mean it will lose its charm as a fading testament to what we once believed in. Perhaps we need to be reminded, but until that happens, take the trip – it’s well worth it. Once exiting the MÃ©tro head away from the crowds going towards La Ronde and head in the direction of the Calder Mobile sculpture (the big metal thing that kinda looks like a person) and then keep walking West along the forest trail.
You’ll eventually come up on the Pont de la Concorde, and Place des Nations is on the other side. Be advised, I’ve been here at times when there was literally no one else in sight. There are wild animals here, like herons, porcupines, beaver, ground hogs etc, and parts of the structure around Place des Nations is actually falling to pieces, so keep safe and enjoy.
For an aerial bird’s-eye perspective, click here.