Hacking the City: Tactical Urbanism in Montreal

Borrowing from the contemporary French anthropologist Marc Augé definition of non-place as ““a space which cannot be defined as relational, or historical, or concerned with identity……and is thus devoid of emotion and memory,””  this project centered on a particular type of non-place common to Montreal and other North American cities: the liminal public space.  Absent of interest, compassion or character-defining elements, these spaces, including bus stops, metro stations and pedestrian tunnels, fall below the collective consciousness despite being experienced daily. The result is that these spaces do not receive due attention from strategic stakeholders such as planners, developers and designers. For better or worse, they become the realm of taggers, the homeless and other clandestine groups.

Over the course of a few months, our team of four conducted a series of anonymous tactical design interventions at liminal sites throughout Montreal’’s urban core. Executed on a DIY scale and budget, the interventions ranged from installing bus stop seats where none existed to hanging valentine’’s cards or tying balloons in dreary tunnels. Through each intervention, we sought to elicit surprise and encourage public interaction thereby imbuing such non-places, at least temporarily, with qualities of place. The project culminated with a public workshop hosted by the the Canadian Centre for Architecture as part of the 2013 exhibition ABC:MTL. The workshop focused on sharing our methodology, stimulating public discussion and leading participants in a tactical intervention at a nearby site.

One of our anonymous interventions even appeared as pic-of-the-day in Spacing Montreal, a division of Canada’s premiere urban issues publication, Spacing Magazine

Project team members: Jaimie Cudmore, Lauran Drown, Justin Hung & Khorshid Naderi-Azad.