While the city of Montreal embarks on a massive, four-year project to replace aging pipes and boost pedestrian- and bike-safety on one of its main commercial streets, enormous inflatable arches will keep pedestrians away from construction, but still drawn to local businesses. CTV News Montreal reports that while business corridors often struggle during lengthy construction projects, the city is hoping the arches will maintain interest in St. Catherine Street and provide a place for pedestrians to gather in the absence of traffic.
“I think the businesses will thrive in that time rather than struggle and suffer to survive,” said designer Tudor Radulescu. “The fact that it’s visually strong, it will attract people.” The arches, designed by Montreal firm Kanva Architecture, are designed to create the impression of walking through a vaulted corridor, like the interior of a church, but the arches are webbed, not solid, maintaining the visibility of the street. Each inflatable, called an “imago,” will reach about as high as the buildings’ third floor and stretch the entire length of a block.
While construction is happening on the street, the arches will cover work crews and keep people to the sidewalks. While construction is happening on the sidewalks, pedestrians will walk through the arches on the road. St. Catherine Street will be closed to cars throughout the project, potentially making room for events such as yoga classes or street shows. Pedestrians will still be able to access all stores and restaurants.
The design beat out four other finalists in a contest to keep St. Catherine Street vibrant. It will cost about $3.8 million total, including the cost of the competition, payment for designers and the cost of moving the structures. Officials said the inflated arches will be in place from late 2017 until 2022.
During that time, sewers and water mains under St. Catherine’s will be replaced, and the street will be receive a number of upgrades, including bike lanes, wider, heated sidewalks and more sitting areas. The work on St. Catherine Street is projected to cost $95 million.
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.