Montreal in Monocle’s Top 25 Liveable Cities

Posted on July 10th, 2009 by .

Montreal made Monocle magazine’s Top 25 Liveable Cities in the World for the third year in a row. But Tyler Brûlé’s team is thinking perhaps the city might be lacking new and inventive structures, and should improve its urban landscape. I don’t agree. Find out my answer to this month’s issue of Monocle about how Montreal is changing itself.
I’ve been a huge fan of Tyler Brûlé’s work since the very beginning, when he founded Wallpaper in the 1990s and most recently when he started MONOCLE, which I believe is one the world’s best magazines. I had many conversations with Juan Gonzales, editor of GLOBAL CULTURE, on how Monocle changed the way we see travel, culture and lifestyle – and only over the course of three years of publication.

Every year, Monocle comes up with the Top 25 Liveable Cities in the World, a list of places celebrated for their quality of life and innovative cultural features. You’ll note that New York and London didn’t make this year’s selection, but Montreal ranked 19th. Monocle editors included Montreal for its liberal, laid-back and casual atmosphere, but also for its creative art scene. One thing that struck me, though, was this year’s annual “fix,” a recommendation by Monocle’s editors to make the city better: Tyler Brûlé’s team said that Montreal needed to improve its urban landscape by building new and inventive structures.

To this I say: Excuse me, Mr. Brûlé, but I think you’ve overlooked some excellent recent initiatives!

The new Quartier des Spectacles and Place des Festivals should be a major addition to the city’s outlook, with a new concert hall built for the ORCHESTRE SYMPHONIQUE DE MONTRÉAL, and eventually, a building on the corner of Ste. Catherine and St. Laurent streets designed by renowned French architect Paul Andreu, famous for his work at the Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport in Paris.

Another very cool project is the mayor’s five shukos (shuko means “idea” in Japanese). The concept is to give graphic designers and architects the opportunity to improve the city by coming up with solutions to five current issues. The list includes the creation of urban furniture for outdoor events on the Place des Festivals (done), the transformation of Marcelle Ferron’s artwork for the CHAMP-DE-MARS METRO STATION into a modern playground, creating a new graphic identity for Montreal’s bus stops, transmute the PALAIS DES CONGRÈS’ eastern façade, and develop a unique branding for local taxis. When I worked for URBANIA, a lifestyle magazine made in Montreal, we had this project in mind a few years ago: we proposed to paint all taxis in pink, to have a distinct signature from New York’s yellow cabs and London’s black cars… How great would that be?

I’ll also mention that Montreal was one of the few cities in the world to be named a UNESCO Design City, along with Berlin and Buenos Aires. So I guess we must be doing something right!

I feel like these upcoming projects and ideas are really cool, especially since they’re truly made for Montrealers. Of course, tourists will be able to enjoy these installations, but I think Montreal has realized that what attracts people here is who we really are. We don’t try to build something just for the sake of building something; it has to reflect our true identity. I also think the fact I was hired to talk about the city to other people instead of investing on posters and brochures means that we have our own way of doing things here, and that we’re quite ahead of the times.

Conclusion: I guess Tyler Brûlé and his team probably weren’t aware of all these recent initiatives. Maybe now they’ll pay closer attention, and watch Montreal evolve and change in its own way, like Berlin did a few years ago. And I invite you to come and witness it for yourself.

What do you think? What are your favourite installations in Montreal? And what would you add to the city? Send me your photos, comments or ideas at daviel [at], and I’ll post them for discussion on my blog.

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