Westmount Square is one of my favourite buildings in one of my favourite cities. Perhaps I should correct myself here, Westmount Square is a actually a complex consisting of three buildings, two residential towers and one office tower. Included within the bounds of the complex is a shopping concourse and a low rise two storey structure housing medical suites and other facilities. Below ground are more shops, parking facilities and a series of subways linking the complex to the nearby Atwater Metro Station and the adjacent Place Alexis Nihon complex.
The architect for this project was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The complex was completed in 1967. Two things here. The first regarding Mies van der Rohe. In some texts, this project is referred to as being designed in the “International” style. I would prefer to refer to design as being “modernist”. But then, what do I really know? Mies van der Rohe and several other European architects of note more or less defined the style and set in motion as a movement.
What I found really appealing in this project are its clean lines – both vertical and horizontal and how well integrated all the components are and, of course, its transparency. From whatever point of view one takes to view this complex, there’s a sweetness and balance to all the various structural components here.
What is of interest here is the “openness” and transparency of this project’s design, especially that of the residential towers. By “openness” I mean the use of floor to roof glass panels on the main façade – all this for a project that was designed and finished some 45 years ago. What’s more, the detailing in this project is superb, even to this day.
The other thing is, this project was completed during what may well have been Montreal’s heyday – a period which culminated with the 1967 International and Universal Exposition or “Expo 67″, as it is more commonly referred to.
This was a period of interesting development and growth for Montreal. While the Expo celebrated Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, further up the river is Moshe Safdie’s iconic Habitat 67 which, to me, is still one of the more interesting if not most significant pieces of architecture I have encountered.
Between Westmount Square and the Parc Jean Drapeau, where Expo 67 was held, is IM Pei’s Place Ville Marie (formerly the Royal Bank Tower). While completed in 1962 it sort of falls into this “heyday” period in Montreal’s recent history. The are several other projects of note that come out of this period but, all in all, this period and these projects more or less define Montreal – this from an architectural point of view.
TECHNICAL NOTES: This image was taken with a Canon EOS 1D MkII data capture device using a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens.
Rogan is currently based in Hong Kong where he undertakes photography assignments and commissions for architects as well as corporate, design and editorial clients. Rogan specialises in Architectural, Corporate and Social Documentary photography.