Mont-Royal Park is a cherished cultural landscape and an important destination for Montrealers and tourists alike. For over a hundred years, the protection and celebration of the mountain has been an essential community and municipal objective with many constraints, public-private dynamics and development pressures.
To celebrate the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal, the goal of Escales découvertes was to make the Mont-Royal mountain and the larger Mont-Royal Heritage Site more accessible physically and in terms of awareness of its rich architectural and landscape history. The project was to further the public cognizance of the important natural and cultural characteristics of the territory, which includes three summits, five cemeteries, two university campuses, several hospitals and significant urban and architectural neighborhoods.
Initially, the project called for a multidisciplinary landscape, signage and wayfinding approach. A major pragmatic challenge was the size and area of the environment to be celebrated within a relatively small budget. A second challenge was related to the strong heritage protection afforded the territory and the complex stakeholder approval process, which often makes contemporary design initiatives difficult.
Staying away from traditional wayfinding options, such as linear trails, directional signage or commemorative markings, the designers opted instead for an open-ended approach using mostly natural features as wayfinding clues. A family of objects was developed in keeping with requirements deriving from the site’s special heritage status.
Designed in granite and bronze, they are installed throughout the park and its immediate surroundings. They are meant to engage visitors in a sensorial and intuitive discovery of the site’s features. Three types of objects were created: tridimensional maps designed as orientation devices, low conical stones serving as markers in the landscape and larger belvedere-like halts.
The bronze maps, each set on a granite base, were strategically placed at twelve access points. Each map clearly identifies Mont-Royal’s three distinct summits, rising above the city grid, and three built landmark icons. Together they provide visitors with a visual and tactile understanding of the mountain’s geographical identity.
The cones, clustered in groups of three, vary in size, some as small as stepping-stones, others large enough to sit or lean on. With their bronze inscriptions, they provide clues to the history or identity of the nearby landscape and trigger a multi-sensory experience. Twenty-five of these unique cone clusters were installed on the mountain.
The last segment of this family of objects consists in a series of ten landscaped halts. Each one, whether anchored in the ground or projecting from a cliff, is defined by border-like granite components featuring a one-line bronze poem written specifically for each location by an assigned Montreal poet. The halts, at times curvilinear, at times angular, all with built-in seating, are located in strategic locations with privileged views of Mont-Royal’s interior landscapes.
Immersive and engaging, Escales découvertes invites Montrealers and visitors alike to continually renew their experience of the mountain through a fuller understanding of place.
Peter Soland (lead landscape architect, project manager), Julie Margot (lead visual designer), Julie St-Arnault (landscape architect), Luu Nguyen (landscape architect), Fannie Duguay-Lefebvre (urban designer)
Civiliti, Julie Margot Design
80,586,000 sq ft
Vlan paysages, LN paysage, Lafontaine & Soucy architectes (heritage consultants), Les Services Exp (civil engineering); Messier Design (industrial design); Jules Lasalle (sculptor); Stéphane Aubin (graphic designer); Eric Filion (IT consultant); Paul Bélanger, Geneviève Blais, Daniel Canty, Denise Desautels, Suzanne Jacob, Erin Moure, Chantal Neveu, Pierre Nepveu, Dominique Robert, François Turcot (poets); Kyra Revenko, Marc Guastavino (additional literary content)
Rock of Ages (stone cutters), Artcast (bronze foundry), Pontbriand joaillier-orfèvre (bronze finish), Premier Jet (bronze insets into stone)