Category Archives: Industrialization and the Built Environment

Photo by David Ward

Architectural change in the duplexes and fourplexes of Pointe-Saint-Charles

Architectural change in the duplexes and fourplexes of Pointe-Saint-Charles:

200 Years of Social and Cultural Lifestyle Evolution

A project for ARTH611: Industrialization and the Built Environment, Fall 2015

by Gillian MacCormack, Swintak, and Raphaël Trottier

Three Concordia graduate students stroll up and down the streets of Pointe-Saint-Charles (PSC), pondering how the area’s iconic, vernacular architecture illustrates one side of Montreal’s early nineteenth-century cultural and social history. Some façades seem unchanged; others have been renovated to accommodate twenty-first century tastes. We note certain architectural features, which we would soon come to recognize as typical of the community’s original, working-class character. Were such features and changes also to be found behind those multi-fashioned doorways? This was the question that motivated our group’s research and approach in the Fall of 2015.

The answers we found were the basis of our project, exhibited at Salon Laurette at the end of the semester. We focused upon the typology of the PSC duplex and fourplex, looking for physical evidence of cultural and social change, inside and out. With the intent to create a multi-media presentation of interviews with PSC residents in their homes, about their homes, we developed two specific questions that would be the basis of each interview:

What did these houses look like, and how were they organized, when the residents’ parents or grandparents lived here?

And how have residents adapted their homes and gardens, and renovated these houses to meet current needs and desires?

Our challenge then became how to meet and persuade people to allow three strangers into their homes to film and talk about ways of living, past and present. Well, when in doubt, ask – and we did. We knocked on doors, explained our interests, and were quickly invited to return at a given time and date for an interview, with permission to film anything we liked. Through our initial cold calls, further residents were recommended, and were equally welcoming.

All participants were open to talking about the architectural changes made to their dwellings over time, and how their living needs differed from those of previous generations. For our group, the icing on our cake was being able to film the actual, physical changes people had made to their homes, for aesthetic or practical reasons, while our interviewees were explaining these very same changes to us. We made a point of filming any original architectural features retained for historical interest or sentimental value. These included ceiling plaster work around a lighting fixture, narrow, steep staircases, rooms still painted in old tones, a massive beam in a cellar where a large chunk had been cut out to permit a particularly tall ancestor from banging his head, and an original brick wall with raccoon paw marks left over from when newly formed wet bricks were waiting to be placed.

These personal interviews and visits were invaluable, as research, and unforgettable experiences due to our interviewees’ enthusiasm and generosity. They allowed us to understand and visualize how cultural and social change, as well as personal narratives, are related to the built environment. Importantly, as can be found elsewhere in the world, generation-to-generation ties in the Point are linked to certain architectural features inside and outside the family home, even as these spaces are adapted to a new generations, and lifestyles. The importance of the built environment, for the people who shape it, was underscored when our interviewees joyfully attended the end of term exhibition and saw themselves and the labour and affection they have given to their homes, documented in our film.

Duplex/Fourplex by pointesaintcharles

Text by Gillian MacCormack, edited by Cynthia Hammond

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 2.12.24 PM

The Right to the City Event at Share the Warmth

This is a rough video sharing the final performance (mostly the music) by Theatre students in the Right to the City course, a tethered teaching initiative in Pointe Saint-Charles, a postindustrial neighbourhood in Montreal’s south-west.

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Reclaiming Body Territory Through Activism in Pointe-St-Charles

By Katrina Caruso

For girls and women, to live in our bodies in a male-controlled world is to live in places of continual siege. […] I have not wholly concluded the process of reclaiming all the territory that is my body. The reconquering of territory and the maintenance of territory continues daily. Someday I will fully and unconditionally occupy all of its space at all times. – Si Tranken

Walking through Pointe-St-Charles, I have found that the neighborhood has both charming spots – lush greenery and big trees, homes with stories – and not-as-nice spaces – concrete industrialism and run-down buildings. Through my site visits, I was most drawn to the places that are part of the latter. These spaces hold a certain kind of tension – they are the in-between: reminders of moments, of activity no longer there, and places of movement, places we use to get to and from.

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Stanfield - Website Photo 2

Adventure Party

By Evan Stanfield and Laura O’Brien

Like many post-industrial neighborhoods throughout North America, Montreal’s Pointe Saint-Charles is currently experiencing a rapid rate of urban renewal and development as city planners try to envision a future for a place that was built around industries that have slowly disappeared. But as long-vacant buildings, and neglected plots of land are hastily transformed into condominiums, the amount and the variety of shared urban spaces that residents of the neighborhood have access to is decreasing. It is with this thought in mind that I set out explore Pointe Saint-Charles in search of a way to engage with the neighborhood through an urban intervention project.

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Photo: Lisa Graves

Grace by Lisa graves

By Lisa Graves

In October 2014, a small group of guests were invited to participate in a sound installation and collective composition while touring the remaining bell tower structure at Share the Warmth in Pointe-Sainte-Charles.

Anthropologist Kathleen Stewart remarks that every person is a series of compositional moments. These are the kind of moments I’ve encountered at Share the Warmth in Pointe-Sainte-Charles. Compositional captures made up of the rhythms of people, events and happenings in a place where life unfolds in an acoustic flow.

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Saturday November 29 – Audio tour / Exhibition of projects and short performances

Français à suivre. Download as PDF.

Pointe Saint-Charles “Shares the Warmth” as Concordia Students partner with local organizations

On November 29th, three classes from Concordia University will be showcasing work done this semester in Pointe St-Charles. The event is open to the public and features an audio tour of the neighbourhood followed by an exhibition of projects and short performances. The audio walk departs from the Pointe-St-Charles Library (1050 Hibernia) at 1pm and the exhibition is at Share the Warmth (625 Fortune) from 2:30-5:30pm.

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Photo credit: Damien Smith, bottom right, David Ward

X Marks Your Spot

By Damien Smith

I am an individual of what would be best described as coming from a rural working class/blue collar background. Most of my childhood was spent on a former cold war era army base converted to housing that by the 1990’s had become an economic burden to both the municipal and provincial governments: was then abandoned and became a ghost town and a few years later demolished and razed to the ground.

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Photo Credit: Zoe Wonfor

A Brief History of Interiors: Point St-Charles

By Zoe Wonfor

To be outside something is to be inside something else. To be outside (something) is to afford oneself the possibility of a perspective to look upon the inside. Which is made difficult if not impossible from the inside. This is the rare and unexpected joy of outsideness: to see what cannot be seen from the inside.

Elizabeth Grosz – Architecture from the Outside.

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Sites of Social Engagement and Culture at the Point

By John Toohey

I was first drawn to Point Saint Charles’ elliptical shape. Ringed by industry and cut off from the rest of the city, it suggested a neighbourhood that would become self-reliant and inward looking. These were ideal circumstances for the development of a distinct or idiosyncratic culture.

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A Place for Food in Public Space: Learning from Food Security Activism in the Point

By Isadora Chicoine-Marinier et Samantha Wexler

Starting from the discovery of Le Ratatouillé collective garden and L’Épicerie Solidaire on Grand Trunk Street, this intervention is an ongoing field-research project around food security and activism in Point-Saint-Charles from past to future.

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Songs for Rent - Emotional Cartography

Songs for Rent: Emotional Cartography

By Dario Ré

The proliferation of post-industrial gentrification in Pointe-Saint-Charles has transformed once-affordable rental housing into condo homes, displacing memories embedded in space and thus, as Steve Pile suggests in Temporalities, Autobiography and Everyday Life, “narratives of the self.” He argues these narratives are “more than just ‘situated’ in the sense of having a particular, unique time and place.” They are “inherently spatial [and] spatially constituted. Stories of the self are ‘produced’ out of the spatialities that seemingly only provide the backdrop for those stories ourselves.”1

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