Smith Street Competition

In collaboration with Brown & Storey Architects.

Promenade Smith is a 500m long stretch of new public space adjacent to the existing train viaduct and the new urban edge formed by the mixed-use District Griffintown development blocks. The promenade is an extension of the historic axis of rue Wellington beginning at the Square des Frères-Charon, interrupted by the Canal yet extending metaphorically to infinity (‘La Chine’). It is a sequential space that is intercepted by the historic orthogonal grid of Griffintown intersecting and terminating along rue Smith. Fragments of space travel along its’ visual corridor, extending the space both east and west of this line and connecting it with adjacent environments (Bassin Peel, Griffintown, rue Brennan etc). The promenade passes under a large fragment of the train viaduct – columned and walled, this space partially encloses various room-like spaces. This robust structure transforms from a wall into a bridge and then vanishes into a berm towards the western edge of the site.
In order to generate an informed response to this site, we have developed a method in which various fragments, metaphors and narratives of Griffintown’s history can be incorporated into a series of sufficiently muscular interventions that respond to its’ new vocation:

  • A lattice using rue Wellington as the ‘primitive organizer’ and consisting of rows (east-west) and registers
  • (north-south) that orient the lattice, map all the fragments along it and provide structure for stories, landscapes etc. across the site;
  • A series of elevated ‘horizon figures’ along the promenade that mark out the sequence of spaces, mark the horizon and relate to each other as in a series. They have a heroic scale. They can be illuminated. They participate in the skyline of the city;
  • A ‘frieze’ wall as a framing idea that serves to organize and strengthen the existing manmade infrastructures such as the viaduct and the embankment wall and define a continuous edge of the promenade. It can be a woven metal panel – or even masonry at some of the lower panels. It is open and closed. It can support a vertical garden. It can be inscribed – images can be absorbed into its surface;
  • A hard surfaced promenade set against more porous and planted surfaces that acts as a circuit connecting the fragments of public space together, establishing entry points at street edges and forming a consistent public way and surface that activates all the extremities of the site;
  • An allée with lines of trees along the axis that can thicken where required given available space, punctuate at continuous street locations, start and stop and extend laterally to engage adjacent spaces at rue Brennan, the Peel Basin and the triangular garden at square Gallery;
  • A series of primitive elements that serve as walls, gardens, plinths/platforms and vertical figures and provide opportunities for interaction and appropriation of the space by residents, citizens and visitors.

Rather than proposing a definitive framework, we are proposing a generative process to evolve our ideas, metaphors and technical responses at a later stage. We are looking for new kinds of connection and interpretation that can produce novel results. The program, social and cultural dynamic of the site and its history requires a careful and disciplined approach to interpret the ideas into a strong response for Promenade Smith that asserts Griffintown’s history and character.