Found an interesting documentary, first in the URBA 2000 series produced for the NFB in 1974.
As described, in the mid-1970s was an established leader in urban renewal.
We’ve got a forty, possibly fifty year old tradition of urban renewal and preservation via maintenance of desirable residential neighbourhoods within the urban core.
Though all these buildings seem to still exist throughout much of what I would call the most desirable neighbourhoods adjacent and integrated into the urban tapestry, I’ve noticed that these neighbourhoods are far, far greener today than back then. There are many more ‘pocket parks and playgrounds’ disrupting the long rows of triplexes and duplexes, more trees lining the streets and alleyways like veritable jungles.
When this documentary was made protecting trees and green space within the urban environment and first ring residential zones was still very new. Efforts to accomodate families in subsidized housing were relatively new as well, though the city counted more than half of its city-owned apartments with more than three closed bedrooms. Also novel at the time – clearing out the old backyard sheds (which were no longer needed as homes were no longer heated with coal or wood) and developing back yards.
Amazing this was all head-scratchingly new in 1974. Good watch.
Now the PQ says Bill 101 needs to be strengthened. It needs teeth. At a time when we have to cut healthcare and education spending (resulting, as expected, in a raise in tuition despite all the campaigning to the contrary), it pushes for more OQLF inspectors (something the PLQ was planning on doing principally to mollify the soft-nationalist vote) and sets them lose amongst the small-business classes, a challenge to civic harmony if i ever dared imagine one, and hopelessly inept at containing bad PR as witnessed recently by the appropriately named pastagate – the suffix ‘gate’ so overused and meaningless it now appears to be entirely fitting when covering anything to do with the over-zealous law school drop-outs and philosophy minors who constitute the rank and file of the tongue troopers.
It’s a kind of political theatre. The appearance of actually doing something to fix a problem that doesn’t actually exist.
In any event – just a few thoughts on a festering, oozing sore. Enjoy the video, it seems clear to me Morley Safer found the whole thing rather amusing, least of all because of Louise Beaudoin’s near-hysterical defence of Bill 101’s excesses (such as the language cops). It’s quaint seeing how a recently neutered PQ government, such as it was in 1998, returned to using the OQLF to give itself the appearance of legitimacy. Fifteen years later and we’re in just about the same situation.
Like too many great Canadian artists Lipsett was way too far ahead of his time and committed suicide two weeks shy of his 50th birthday largely unknown and under appreciated. But he did have a profound and lasting impact on a young George Lucas (as well as Stanley Kubric; Lipsett was offered a chance to create the trailer for Dr. Strangelove but declined. What Kubric ultimately produced was heavily inspired by Lipsett).
Lucas credits the inspiration for his idea of ‘The Force’ to a specific moment in the film when the word is mentioned, in the decontextualized snippet of an apparently spiritual conversation (at 3:51).
But it is the imagery that caught my attention at that moment. The old man feeding the pigeons is doing so in Phillips Square, and is sandwiched between shots of a flock of pigeons soaring above Dorchester Square, in such a fashion that it looks almost like the same birds jumped from one cut to another, sweeping from left to right. A character of an old man with a hat, at first feeding pigeons and well dressed, then disheveled yet holding a bird in his hands, continues this micro-story arc through what seems to be several different pieces of film. That’s what George Lucas was looking at when he began to conceive The Force, a belief and pseudo-spiritual plot device that has inspired some 400,000 Brits to describe themselves as Jedi, making Jedi the fourth largest reported religion in the United Kingdom (there are more reported Jedi in the UK than Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews; you can’t make this shit up.)
You can read as much into this as you like, I just think it’s neat that George Lucas, the man who created one of the most enduring, popular and lucrative films of all time was thinking up The Force while watching a crazy old man play in pigeons in one of my favourite city parks.
Also it should be stated that Dorchester Square looks really good but, as I suppose I am somewhat unaccustomed to seeing my city in black and white, I found the textures and character of the buildings facing the square (all of which are still there and just as prominent today, they nonetheless seem more severe and imposing. In one instance the Dominion Square Building looking like a cloudy backdrop quickly coming into focus as a detailed wall of windows. The glass and slate CIBC Tower almost appears as a solid mass, and in the background the Cathedral looms large and ominous, as if viewed through a fog.
Yet in the foreground there are quaint and relaxing scenes we could quite literally go see in real time any old day of the week during the more temperate months. Dorchester Square still has possibly crazy old men talking to and feeding the pigeons. In Phillips Square, by contrast, a newspaper-hawking dwarf handles such affairs. Plus que Ã§a change, eh?
That was one hell of a fire. Glad no one was injured.
Something to keep in mind w/r/t the antique element of our cityscape – the older buildings get the more attention needs to be paid to how we maintain them, what precautions we need to take when executing renovations or upgrades and what measures we might be able to implement to better neutralize a fire once it’s started.
Although I suppose it would help if we didn’t have so many goddam arson cases in this city, but that’s another issue entirely.
Apparently this building was being renovated earlier yesterday, so it’s possible that may have something to do with it, though it isn’t known for certain. The damage was concentrated on the upper floors, no one was hurt or injured and over a hundred firefighters responded. Adjacent buildings include the head office of La Presse as well as the Hotel Place d’Armes, neither of which were damaged despite the rather impressive fire.
There you have it. Excellent timing, I’m quite happy it was caught on film so well.
I’ll admit, when I discovered there was an Instagram-branded digital camera I bemoaned the death of Polaroid, but hey, who am I to tell the free-market what to do?
Personally, I like the filters and the way by which the filters are able to ameliorate otherwise low-quality digital photos, but I’m sure that will change too as the technology improves. Regardless, here are some of my favourite snap-shots of people and places in our fair city.
An afterthought – both of these buildings have lost their anchor tenants. The tower was originally jointly owned by IBM and Marathon Realty, another 350th anniversary gift to the city from the private sector. It was built in competition with 1000 de la Gauchetiere West, and though both are icons of the city’s post-modern architecture, both lack anchor tenants. Odd considering how beautiful both are, how centrally located they are. Windsor Station was the corporate head office of Canadian Pacific Railways until 1997 when they consolidated their operations in Calgary. Today I believe CSIS maintains an office there. I wonder if new residential developments in the area will have any effect on their future significance in the urban tapestry.
A place where everyone can pass a long summer day thinking about tomorrow, pondering what could be. I think we’re lucky it’s considered an element of good design to include some type of balcony, front porch or rooftop terrace on urban residential construction here. In some places its quite the rarity, considered old-fashioned. Odd no?
So I’ve recently started working in an office tower Downtown. Try to guess which one based off these pics, it should be fairly obvious. All correct answers will receive infinite karma, as will incorrect answers. You can’t possibly go wrong!
A few things I’ve noticed about working on the 24th floor of this building. For one, I feel like I’ve become a lot more aware of how urban density is a very subjective, aesthetic affair once you get past the human-scale street-side. We benefit from excellent urban planning, and as such I feel that the towers are less imposing in some cases. The tallest seem less overwhelming when viewed in relation to the large open spaces they’re located next to, whereas the more intermediate towers in the ‘uptown’ area (along Boul. de Maisonneuve in was once referred to as the Place du Centre) are spaced apart more-or-less evenly, so that views are open rather than obscured (consider Toronto, which placed all their tallest buildings in the same small confined area, with few set-backs). When I turned the corner in the office on my first day, and saw the other principle skyscrapers of the urban core rising high above the more cluttered mass below, I felt like I was standing amongst giants. A very inspiring place to be indeed. It was something else to see the other giants at a more-or-less dead-on perspective.
Our city has a fair number of falcons prowling the city skies for unsuspecting rodents or pigeons. I’m okay with that – though admittedly they tend to be rather ominous looking, circling as they do, waiting to dive in for the kill. Majestic too, if majesty can be foreboding too.
I’m surprised I have this much empathy for rats and their winged equivalents.