Photos by Olivier Drouin @Drowster with words by Nicholas Corroon.
At the corner of Wood Street, the three black towers of Westmount Square rise abruptly from the Westmount neighbourhood. A symbol of Montreal’s drive to become a major world metropole, the building’s history is rooted in Montreal’s desire for modern luxury and the city’s adjustment to the modern era. Today, with its stark exterior, it reflects the history that makes Montreal so unique.
Today, the square’s website explains, “Westmount Square is a synonym for luxury in Montreal, whose timeless elegance remains as irresistible as ever in the 21st century. Housing a wide range of boutiques and conveniently located near office complexes, it’s the ideal venue for both business and pleasure.”
Designed by the famous architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, also known as Mies, the square was finished in December 13, 1967. One of the central figures of modern architecture —counted amongst architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier— Mies sought to define a new architecture as distinctly representative of the modern age as the Greek and Roman architecture of the ancient world. What he created he referred to as “skin and bones” architecture.
Modeled on the Seagram Building in NYC, another building by Mies, the square aims to present the functionality of its internal structure as an aesthetic value. His initial desire for the Seagram building was to have the entire steel structure visible. However, American fire codes forbid it.
The exterior is made of black anodized aluminum and smoked glass windows that accentuate a strong structural core. The large, southern tower stands 83 metres tall, 22 floors above the city, and the two smaller, residential towers are 69 metres, having only one fewer floor.
Not coincidentally coinciding with the year of Expo 67, Westmount Square was the perfect fit to the modernizing goals of Montreal. As the Quiet Revolution culminated in an intense era of construction and reconstruction, new buildings shot up across the city in an effort to prove that Montreal was more than just a quiet Canadian town. Hosting the World’s Fair was a major turning point for Canadian history that helped place the growing country onto the world stage.
But the end of the Quiet Revolution also meant a shift to a more secular Quebec. The entrance on Greene Avenue recalls Montreal’s religious past with The Chorus, a sculpture of singing women in cloth, crafted by Sylvia Lefkovitz.
Today, the square continues to serve Westmount’s residents as a shopping gallery, apartment building, and offices. It also stands as a major landmark for a changing Quebec and the diversity of identities that shaped the present.
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