Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Art and architecture of the Montreal Metro

It’s mostly good stuff, with some great pieces as well. I haven’t been through all the stations, but managed to get a look at 55 of them (out of 68 stations) over the course of a few days. I would say that this is best when you don’t want to be outside, i.e. when the weather is bad, and for the most part, it’s also a nice tour to do during the evening. I bought a $8 CDN 24 hour pass, and rode the rails, mixing it with walking around the neighborhoods.

Some of the stations are best seen in the daytime, especially the Champ-de-Mars station with its stained glass. This provides a colorful, ever-changing pattern of color in the entryway, and at certain times of day, even onto the platform itself. The remainder of the station is a clean 1960s design with a swept roof and streamlined columns. Like many of the stations built in the 1960s, the tones are neutral to bright, with plenty of tiling.

Champ-de-Mars station (1966), orange line

Down the orange line, the Bonaventure station is another one of my favorites. The interior is mostly exposed concrete with brick on the floors, the lighting scheme brings out the numerous arches throughout the entire station. Also, the signs are integrated into the pyramidal lamps. It’s more of an exception to the 1960s stations, this one looks forward to the predominant tone of the 1970s stations, which are mostly exposed concrete, but without the textures.

Bonaventure station (1967), orange line

Peel deserves a special mention, the colored circles are a unifying theme of this station, and of the Metro in general. The station, all the way down to the floor tiles, is decked out in circles. One can see the colored circles everywhere throughout the system (see below). The design of the beams is also interesting in Peel station, resting on small steel bases.

Peel station (1966), green line

The major expansion of the system took place in the 1970s and 1980s, with the extensions of the green and orange lines, and the construction of the blue line in the mid-1980s. For the most part, I found the blue line stations rather unappealing, they look outdated already in their color schemes and artwork. But the 1970s stations are excellent and memorable. Georges Vanier station is a standout. The monchromatic gray is offset by a variety of textures, and a nice splash of polished blue tiles. The circle also continues a theme throughout the Metro.

Georges Vanier station (1980), orange line

Monk station is a wonderful synthesis of vertical and horizontal curves, complete with a very tall sculpture at the foot of the bridge. The curves continue on the platform walls, in the form of a subtle horizontal wave of bricks.

Monk station (1978), green line

LaSalle, just a couple stops away, is a standout, with daring asymmetry suggesting crystals and glass. The curves have been replaced by bold lines and sharp corners.

La Salle station (1978), green line

There are also a few duds thrown in there, the busy Guy-Concordia station looks worn out and blank, and well, it is. Atwater station and some of the orange line stations on the Plateau aren’t that much better, but even in these stations, the 1960s flair comes through. The blue line stations seem to be forgettable, with color schemes like this one:

Jean Talon station (1966, 1986), orange / blue lines

Now that’s just a small selection of the stations. By all means, take the tour, the subway is integral to Montreal, and a real treat to experience.

Montreal’s Metro

I think it’s one of the great subway systems in the world, especially in the design of the stations, each of them different, many of them distinguished period pieces.

The system was inaugurated in 1966-67 in time for Expo 67, expanded in the 1970s and 1980s, and expanded again to Laval in 2007. There are now 68 stations in the subway system on four lines, with four transfer stations. It’s a rather expensive fare for single rides, at a prohibitive $3 CDN, but to make up for that, a day pass is $8 CDN, and there’s a new evening fare for $4 CDN. The access points are equipped to handle magnetic cards that you slide through the slot, as well as proximity cards. Overall, it’s painless and easy to use.

Access for the disabled is still an issue, rather few stations have elevators, although this is changing. The platforms are color-coded with the terminal station as the marker showing which direction the train is headed, this requires a bit of familiarity, and the maps are sometimes difficult to find. As with most subway systems in the world, there are no express stops or limited runs, and the system shuts down at night, despite Montreal’s penchant for late weekend partying and dining. The stations are relatively clean, although lacking in garbage bins, so there tends to be plenty of papers and drink cups left throughout the busier downtown stations.

Trains are a standard sky blue in color, apparently not air conditioned, and run quietly on rubber tires. One nifty feature is the Copland chime as the train pulls out of the station, echoing the first notes of Fanfare for the Common Man.

The best part are the artworks and architecture of the stations, so in the next post, coming soon, I’ll present a tour of the best, notable, and the awful stuff.

The official site has an excellent history of the metro system: