Île de Montréal

Old urban highways generate new urban designs

Synopsis: Highways built in the 1960s and 1970s have carved up the urban fabric of many industrialized cities, often bifurcating or separating neighborhoods with poorly defined circulation routes and public spaces. This proposal advances strategies for incrementally stitching scars left by these highways by introducing new bridge-like building prototypes.

Detailed Description: The Island of Montreal (Île de Montréal) is crisscrossed with major highways and metro lines that comprise a transportation network layered with a complex of urban blocks. Because of the city’s extreme winter cold, these blocks are often enclosed and weather-protected, creating a system of interior open spaces in each block.

At one major interchange, the SE-to-NW Highway 720 intersects perpendicularly with Highway 10, and a major metro station is in the vicinity of the highway intersection at Place Bonaventure. Highway 720 is largely submerged, even covered with air-rights developments in places. Other parts of the highway still reveal the urban scar it left.

How, then, to manage this scar and future development? This proposal suggests the exposure of Highway 720, just like that of a river through a city, such as the Seine through Paris or the Thames through London. This highway can gradually be bridged over by streets, walkways, and more air-rights developments, while walkways and structures can be built alongside its banks.

Based on this premise, a new set of building typologies that are as much bridge as tower and office block spans the exposed highway, while a new public armature of enclosed pedestrian routes parallels it. They are tethered to a series of public-use buildings such as theaters and retail centers that cantilever over the highway.

Finally, a new set of building types are overlaid on the historic structures in the adjacent neighborhoods. They are built out of a series of steel cage-like frames that lie on the flat and span existing roofs, creating an entirely new roofscape for the neighborhood while adding more habitable space.