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Completed in 2010, phase 1 of Dorchester Square’s restoration and enhancement is guided by a deep appreciation of its evolution, reflecting nearly 300 years of history. This project and its overall design is inspired by Victorian landscaping. It encompasses the restoration of four monuments from the City of Montreal’s art collection, recaptures the spirit of the St-Antoine cemetery, and returns the luster to this high profile urban quarter, which commemorates the Canadian confederation.
Before its revival, the site was in an advanced state of deterioration, its identity severely compromised. Important visual links had been lost, the tree species selection was inconsistent, informal paths had emerged across the lawns, and the urban furniture was a collection of disparate pieces. Emblematic of Montreal’s Golden age, Dorchester Square has regained its former status as a significant landmark, and has become a unique urban destination. The high number of visitors since the reopening testifies to the success of its restoration and enhancement!
Carried out by Claude Cormier Architectes Paysagistes Inc. + Groupe Cardinal Hardy, the master plan for the enhancement of Dorchester Square and Place du Canada includes four phases. Completed in 2010, phase 1 covers 75% of the original Dorchester Square. The other phases will be realized in the next few years.
To celebrate the Canadian Confederation of 1867, a top-place for festivals and political/cultural gatherings was created in Montreal, then metropolis of this new country. Because dominiom refers to one of a group of autonomous polities that were nominally under British sovereignty, this new public space is named Dominion Square. In its planning, size, sophisticated landscaping, as well as its use as a bourgeois promenade, Dominion Square represents civic ambition through this quintessential garden square, the epitome of Victorian Montreal. Renamed Dorchester Square on the north side in 1987, and Place du Canada on the south side in 1966, they represent the landscaped emblem of the Golden Square Mile.
Two cemeteries established in the late eighteenth century precede the development of the square. Today, more than 60,000 graves lie beneath the surface of Dorchester Square and Place du Canada.
Several buildings surrounding Dominion Square attest to its popularity and reflect the economic, religious and linguistic realities of Montreal. Despite its development over centuries, the built context upholds a rich heritage that can still be observed in the wide variety of architectural styles: catholic cathedral, protestant church, train station, banking buildings and sky scrapers witness to Canadian history and architecture.
DESIGN OF DORCHESTER SQUARE
The project reconfigures the structure of the road system through realignments and changes in street and sidewalks widths. It establishes the urban plan to accommodate more sustainable modes of transportation, including the addition of a bicycle path on Peel Street.
On the ground, a carpet of black granite with diverse finishes reflects light and creates a vibrant visual effect which marks the interior pathways of the square. The black color carries with it a historical dimension and gives the space a felted atmosphere, while the white color of the perimeter sidewalks evokes the modern downtown area. The strong visual contrasts emphasize the distinct materials and intensify the landscape experience. From white to black, the two types of hardscape clarify thresholds and mark entrances.
The Cross Pictogram
To recall the old cemetery and outline of the underground tombs, a Latin cross with a footing is designed - a device taken from the graphical representation on maps for the cemeteries. Fifty eight crosses are distributed in staggered rows on all paved surfaces of the square, and 100 more are planned on Place du Canada.
Four monuments are restored and refurbished: monuments dedicated to heroes from Boers War, Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid-Laurier, poet Robert Burns, and Belfort Lion. Sir Wilfrid-Laurier is endowed with a new foundation consisting of monolithic blocks of black granite in the form of a circular disc of 6.7 m of diameter.
The rehabilitation of noble deciduous trees and high crown foliage reduces opacity of the canopy. It allows the entry of an abundant filtered light that contributes to the growth and preservation of lawns.
The grass plots are treated as mounds, a characteristic of gardens from 1870’s. It amplifies the green in the foreground, hides the pathways, and relegates vehicular traffic to the background. This technique also safeguards the archaeological heritage, ensures growth and durability of lawns by limiting their exposure to foot traffic and provides a new aesthetic experience.
A flowerbed adorns the square and revives the horticultural splendour of the Victorian era. Located in the middle portion, it is composed of 3,500 brightly colored red and pink geraniums, emblematic flowers of Montreal.
The addition of many light posts, along with 125 benches, celebrates the nineteenth century in an updated and subverted Victorian character. The new lighting plan enhances the historical monuments as well as the canopy, while securing pathways and, therefore, becoming a destination at any hour of the day.
The project pays particular attention to current realities and is fed by more than twenty additional studies and analyses: archaeological, heritage, historical, artistic, circulation, etc. The Dorchester Square witnesses the rebirth of the genius loci of Dominion Square, restoring its status as one of the tremendous public spaces in Montreal.
Monuments’ restoration : 815,610$
Dorchester Square phase 1 : 5,139,196$
CLAUDE CORMIER ARCHITECTES
Claude Cormier, Lead Designer
Sophie Beaudoin, Project Manager
Yannick Roberge, Computer Drawings and Color Plan
GROUPE CARDINAL HARDY
Isabelle Giasson, Coordinator
Marie-Eve Parent, Construction Documents
Vanessa Parent, Site Supervisor
Civil and electrical engineers:Teknika-HBA
Lighting Designer: Eclairage Public
Forestry Engineer: Luc Nadeau ingénieur forestier
Architectural Masonry Conservator: Trevor Gillingwater
Clients: Ville de Montreal
Ministère de la Culture, Communications et Condition féminine
General contractor - monument restoration:Terramex
General contractor - Dorchester Square phase 1: Ramcor construction
Photos credit: Marc Cramer, Sophie Beaudoin, Isabelle Giasson and Nathalie Guérin