Unlike the faux festival quality of so many North American waterfront redevelopments, the three-mile-long, 131-acre promenade along the old port of Montreal—designed by architect Peter Rose, AIA, of Cambridge, Mass.–based Peter Rose + Partners, and Cardinal Hardy et Associés (now Groupe IBI | CHBA Architecture)—has a directness and honesty about its past that make it one of the very best of its kind. Winner of an urban design citation, the scheme does not erase the industrial functions of the place. Instead, it retains the rail line that separates the promenade from the city and the working piers along the water’s edge, while providing ample open space where grain elevators and industrial sheds used to stand. Opposite the historic Bonsecours Market, an artificial island offers a range of recreational opportunities, with a pavilion and bridges that echo the area’s industrial character, and with the foundations of a former pier providing traces of the past.

Urban designs rarely get realized as initially envisioned, but this one remains remarkably true to the original design and true to original qualities of the port. “Most waterfronts,” observed juror Gregory Baldwin, “suffer from people trying to do too much and be too cute … this project rationalizes the port’s early 20th [c]entury past … and does not apologize for or obliterate it.” Jorge Silvetti added that people “will interpret it in any way they want—no particular ‘scene’ is imposed on them.” The old port of Montreal proves that we can respect the past without nostalgia and successfully combine functioning waterfronts with public access.

1992 P/A Awards Jury
John Archea
Gregory Baldwin
Steven Holl, FAIA
Diane Legge Kemp, FAIA
Tom Peters
Wolf D. Prix, Hon. FAIA
Stanley Saitowitz
Jorge Silvetti