Penser créer l'urbain

Reflections on the MIL Campus

Presentation of the future campus, proposals for development around the current site and reflections located at the scale of the neighbourhood

A public restitution of the research-creation activities carried out during the Citizen Forum took place on September 30th 2016 at an Interdisciplinary and International Symposium. This Symposium brought together members of the Forum and its participants, as well as community stakeholders from Parc Extension; Montreal academics with solid expertise on the future MIL Campus and researchers from Europe, Canada, the United States and Lebanon, recognized for their scientific expertise and their involvement in similar fields at an international level. The first part of this day was dedicated to the future Campus and to various projects carried out directly on the current construction site, and within its perimeter, with the aim of enriching the reflection in progress, while proposing ways to encourage citizen participation in the appropriation of urban transformations.

During the Symposium, presentations of initiatives and reflections on the future MIL Campus were preceded by the introduction of one of the main actors of the Campus project, Alain Boilard, who presented the vision of the Université de Montréal in accomplishing this great project. He particularly explained the evolution of the project, from the initial purchase of the land to fill the space deficit generated by “the significant growth of the student clientele during the recent years”, up to the development of a new urban Campus in 2019.

From an ecological, social and aesthetic point of view, Vrac Environnement had, since 2011, envisaged the revitalization of the industrial area which is one of the physical “borders” of the future Campus: Beaumont Avenue. Simon Racine, the organization’s director, presents here the approach, the method and the stages of realization of this project of fight against urban heat islands, carried out in cooperation with private companies located on this transit route, through its greening process, in other words through the introduction of plants, trees and shrubs in an environment until then essentially concreted.

Nicole Valois then introduces a selection of proposals from the “Urban Space workshop” she taught in 2013 to Université de Montréal Landscape and Architecture students. This workshop aimed to imagine the development of public spaces in the Beaumont Avenue area. Dominated by the “desire to facilitate the passage over the railway to open up the sector and connect the future Campus to the Parc Extension neighbourhood”, the students’ suggestions invite to give life to the different places, to highlight the landscape heritage and what is built around the future Campus as well as to initiate “activities to cement the community”.

In her short essay “Some observations on the development of the MIL campus”, which extends and updates the restitution of the workshop, Nicole Valois considers that the current building site is an opportunity to create new landscapes, to promote dialogue between the concerned neighbourhoods and the campus and to draw inspiration from the heterogeneity of places to test new uses of public places – both culturally and socially.

It is a similar question that is at the origin of the documentary realized by Simon Harel et Cynthia NouryDans les ruines de l’université de demain. This film is interested in “the potential for the re-foundation of the Université de Montréal through this major project, as well as the symbolic effects for the surrounding community”. The dialogue between the two creative researchers accompanies the visual “paintings” of the field and evolves in the ruins of the old railway yard of Outremont in the process of becoming a state-of-the-art campus.

Finally, the sociologist Carolyne Grimard proposes a theoretical opening regarding the figure of the stranger, evoking the upheavals aroused by the arrival of “the unusual in a neighbourhood, a village or a city”. By extending the conceptual gesture initiated by Alfred Schütz, she says that here the stranger who will have a significant impact on the dynamics of the surrounding neighbourhoods is the future MIL Campus itself. From then on, and in this specific case, the “Outsider, who technically is forced to adapt to the local culture in order to be accepted… holds cultural, symbolic and economic capital that certain neighbourhoods, such as Parc Extension, do not hold equally”.