Student: Quan Thai
Advisor: Michael Jemtrud
Studio: Directed Research Project
Year/Term: Fall 2015
Montreal’s Sainte-Catherine Street bears a landscape of rich history and potential, functioning as the spine for the city’s cultural development. Traversing several neighbourhoods, it is presently known as the central artery for consumption where the matured nature of the street has given way to pockets of deterioration. Architecture has adapted to a mode of societal efficiency where the desire for optimal circulation of activity has caused space to become transient. Society’s adaptation to this efficiency has led urban exploration to often bypass potential encounters within the urban fabric, where these spaces hold latent potential. They then become spaces of the banal, the unfamiliar, and the residual, often housing amenities for the functioning of surroundings that lay baron to the undesirable. From ventilation shafts to exit grates, HVAC units to access stairs, or an empty field hosting ephemeral activities, these mundane but necessary urban amenities speak to the inner and outer workings of the city.
Experiencing Sainte-Catherine’s latent potential through walking as an urban embodiment uncovers the potential for different articulations of the environment. The physical engagement through the awareness of these spaces functions as a speculative zone for playfully turning space to place, where the experience recedes from the conscious. What are typically afterthoughts in the urban landscape can become a new rudimentary ground for collective activity, where the embodied experience reveals latent conditions facilitating a means to re-articulate the mundane.
Street of Collective Latencies is a design proposition that explores Sainte Catherine Street’s existing typological conditions, looking at the potential of encountered situations noticed only through defying current methods of efficient, monadic movement through the city. Within these untapped territories, the reshaping of common urban conditions facilitates new experiences, from the mundane to the counterfactual. The desire for solitary expenditure functions as the transition from the typical readings of the city, to a curious understanding of engagement. Critical points of access facilitate the curiosity of exploring pieces of the unknown, where a heightened awareness of one’s environment arises due to the desire for understanding. Transitioning from the solitary to a collective experience through the design proposition provides amenities that shift and articulate new public movement, accentuating the ascension and the descending of the urban fabric. A unique collective identity forms where the re-imagination of the identified banalities exposes a new presence and potential that facilitates unexpected follies, symbiotic to its environment. Revealing the latent potentials of these amenities alter one’s familiar reading of the city, creating new atmospheres that alter one’s perception symbolically, tectonically and phenomenologically.