June 24 2013

Summer in Montréal, Canada: My Living Room Just Got a Whole Lot Bigger

I decided to take this blog post, my last for The Grid, to the field, literally and metaphorically. I am sitting in Parc Laurier, a park close to my home in Montréal’s Plateau neighbourhood. I have gone back to basics, pen and paper in hand. I sit under a tree observing the park and its users around me. I begin to see the park as an extension of our living rooms – and sometimes even our bedrooms as I see couples canoodling around me.

Lounging in Montreal

This kind of space, public and malleable, in which we transform ephemerally to meet our needs, is something we largely lose in Montréal. We can use public spaces, and we do (as I mentioned in an earlier post). However, we cannot use them in the same way all year round. We cannot lie in the grass in the middle of winter; we cannot sit and read a book, or bring our laptops and work. Summer really opens up another large chunk of space for us urbanites to use, and make our own. This is especially important for those city-dwellers who live in cramped apartments. For example, last winter I regularly went to a yoga studio to practice yoga. I did not have enough space in my apartment. In the summer, however, I transform the park into a yoga studio and practice outside.

Around me, people are currently dancing Rueda, having BBQs and picnics, playing games, reading, writing, and listening to music. These activities need not be done in a park, but the park is transformed all at once into a living room, a backyard, dance studio, a kitchen, a bar, a café, and an office.

Rueda in the park

During the winter months, the space available to use outside our homes is largely dependent on consumption. These are bars, cafés, and restaurants. Sure, there are community centers and libraries, but nothing quite compares to the freedom of public space that we can transform briefly as we wish. In the winter, I would have written this post from home, or a nearby café. But instead I sit here writing from a park, observing all the life around me and wondering where all these beautiful people were all winter long.

What can urban planners and urban designers do to further ameliorate the public spaces in your city?

Credits: Images by Devon Paige Willis. Data linked to sources.

Devon Paige Willis

Devon Paige Willis is a native Montrealer and recent graduate of McGill University where she did her B.A. in Environment and Political Science. She discovered a passion for urban and transportation planning in her final year, during which time she attended UC Berkeley’s [IN]City introductory urban planning program and completed her honours thesis about cycling in Montreal, specifically measuring bikeability and understanding what affects cyclist satisfaction. She will pursue a Master of Urban Studies called 4Cities starting in September 2013. The Masters takes place in Brussels, Vienna, Copenhagen and Madrid and focus on European Urban Planning. She will be focusing on sustainable transportation and is especially interested in urban planning and transportation in suburban environments. She has her own urban planning blog at iliveinthesuburbs.wordpress.com.

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 24th, 2013 at 9:29 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, Environment, Land Use, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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