Image: Untitled (air series #01) | 2008- 2013 |
About the Image: A reworking of an image from the Air Series created in 2008. At the time the Montreal skyline seemed clear and open to possibilities. Now it’s gotten much dirtier and clogged up by the onslaught of condo towers and influx of thousands of vehicles.
AR Intervention Geo Co-ordinates of Image: latitude: 45.49452 | longitude: -73.55758
AR Intervention Site: Prével‘s condo development Phases 1 to 11 at the Lowney’s Chocolate Factory (1905) called Lowney Sur Ville. According to Prével the condos will be located between Ann, Shannon and Ottawa streets, and the project will total over 500 units spread over 4 buildings, including two towers that are 20 storeys high and two that are 8 storeys high.
About the Developer: Part of Prével‘s pitch on their site states that: “Lowney Sur Ville represents a new kind of vertical city block. The modern architectural layout of the building allows residents to enjoy unmatched, panoramic views of the city of Montreal.”
Gotta love that phrase “a new kind of vertical city block.” Jeffrey Dungen for the Committee for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown had a lot to say about Prével’s approach to architecture and condo development…
The site of future Lowney phases 8 through 11 is immediately bordered by three historically significant buildings:
- Gault Brothers co.: Garment factory built in 1901, now recycled as the first phase of the Lowney condo developments
- Walter M. Lowney co.: Chocolate factory built in 1905, now recycled as the second phase of the Lowney condo developments
- Dow Brewery Garage: Garage for beer trucks built in 1929, now recycled for use by the École de Technologie Supérieure
These buildings were constructed during an era when external appearances conveyed the strength of the contained enterprise. As a result, each is of superior architectural quality and detail which would ideally be complemented and enhanced by any adjacent development. It is unusual to find a cluster of three such examples in an outstanding state of preservation within a sector still reeling from the demolitions of Expo 67. This raises the following questions:
- How is it that eighty years ago, a garage for beer trucks was bestowed with a stoic architecture of stone, brick, arches and sculpture, while today, with all of our advances in technology, a modern housing complex is unlikely to match, let alone surpass, this level of architectural affinity?
- How is it that over a century ago, the factories that are today Lowney phases 1 and 2, were constructed, with human and horse power, to a level of architectural finesse exceeding that seen on most modern exterior-clad condo-boxes such as the subsequent Lowney phases?
- How is it that in Old Montreal, new constructions must meet rigorous criteria for integration while in Griffintown, the two centuries of rich history rooted in the birthplace of our nation’s industrial revolution are given but cursory consideration?
The future site of Lowney phases 8 through 11 is located adjacent to:
- A brewery complex which has been converted to accommodate an educational institution
- A chocolate factory and a garment factory which have been converted into residential lofts
While the designers of these early 20th century buildings certainly could not envisage their current configuration at the time of conception, the durability and versatility of their constructions permitted their recent repurposing rather than demolition. This raises the following questions:
- Will Lowney phases 8 through 11 be constructed in a manner conducive to eventual repurposing to meet the inevitably changing needs of the neighbourhood?
- Will Lowney phases 8 through 11 enjoy similar longevity as their counterparts? In fifty years or one hundred years, will phases 8 through 11 represent better candidates for repurposing than the already reconfigured early 20th century factories?
In summary, there is surely a way to construct Lowney phases 8 through 11 at a reasonable scale, of a dignified, befitting architecture, and built to last well into the next century. The same applies to every subsequent development within Griffintown and the whole of Montréal.
If these simple criteria cannot be met, then we must clearly identify the problem(s) before proposing solutions. There are many actors including the developer, the architects, the clients (future residents), the city, the construction industry, and the financial sector, among others. If we want sustainable redevelopment of Griffintown, and if we intend to build the Montreal of tomorrow today, we must seriously question the status quo! Excerpt from: Lowney Phase 8+, Reflections on Scale, Architecture and Longevity