Monday, October 18, 2010

Montreal Part 1: Chinatown

This is part 1 in What I learned in Montréal, an 8-part report from a day trip I took in May to study Montréal's urban environment.

With the official opening of Ottawa's Chinatown Gateway Arch still in recent memory, I'd like to start off the series with a look at Montréal's Chinatown (one of two, according to Wikipedia).

I wanted to see how a gateway arch fares in a Canadian climate, and I also wanted to make a contribution to Eric's series on gateway arches in other cities (see that post from May here).

In contrast to Ottawa's nine-roofed Royal gateway, Montreal has two of these three-roofed gateways ("paifang") at either end of Chinatown on boul. Saint-Laurent, which were built in partnership with Montreal's sister-city, Shanghai:

However Chinatown formally runs along rue de la Gauchetière. This smaller gateway spans it:

Unfortunately, it looks like pigeons are a bit of a problem with Montreal's gateways, with nooks and crannies for pigeons to roost--and defecate--in.

Pigeon netting has been added to the roof of the paifang, which only detracts from the appearance. Pigeon poop still collects under the netting:

Like Ottawa's Chinatown, Montreal's has some decorations on their lamp standards:

They're a bit more subdued than Ottawa's bright red lampposts (which used to be green, as shown at the future location of Ottawa's gateway in 2006 on Somerset Online)

The aesthetic of Montréal's Chinatown has a lot of private-sector buy-in, too, with businesses designed with a distinct Eastern look, like the restaurant Ming-Do:

And the pagoda-style designs on the roof of the Holiday Inn:

Even the residential buildings have some decorative tiles on the balcony rails. Compare this with Ottawa's Chinese community apartments at Kent and Florence, not even in "Chinatown"!

De la Gauchetière is a pedestrian zone through Chinatown, and decorative yin-yang and lotus flower pendants were designed into the paving. It's in about as good shape as the concrete crosswalks in Ottawa at Somerset and Rochester (which isn't very good).

Montréal's Chinatown has a public space with permanent marble tables and stools for meeting and enjoying the outdoors.

This public square has an elevated (1-2 feet high) platform area, which presumably can be used as a stage. The two walls each have a stone mural depicting a Chinese landscape:

Lastly, this little space, which is reminiscent of the rooms found in Chinese palaces, decked out in traditional Chinese style.

The brand-new gateway arch should be just the beginning of a reinvention of Ottawa's Chinatown. With many storefronts being vacated due to rough economic times, frequent construction, and competing megastores in the suburbs, hopefully some of these elements from Montréal's Chinatown can be use in reinventing our own.

Stay tuned for the next installment, on Friday, where I'll look at Montréal's on-road cycling facilities, including sharrows, bike lanes, and segregated bike lanes.

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