Just mention the name Wuhan and, of course, the images that immediately come to mind are those of the notorious virus originated in that Chinese city. However, there is a more favourable connection that Montrealers could make with that city. It was during the 5th Design Biennale, held in that city in November last year that Montreal unveiled its ambitious Biodiversity Corridor.
As the project’s name suggests, Montreal and the Borough of Saint Laurent, where the corridor will be located, aim at reversing a trend marked by the disappearance of trees and vegetation and the displacement of various species, as their habitat was replaced by buildings. The idea is to recover part of what once was a varied natural setting.
According to a press release, “In 2018, the City of Montreal launched a national, multidisciplinary landscape architecture competition, in the hope of generating an innovative scheme to be implemented over the next 20 years. A team of four firms—civiliti, LAND Italia, Table Architecture, and Biodiversité Conseil—won the competition.”
“The future corridor will enable us to transition from a landscape that has been greatly modified by human beings, losing its biodiversity and resilience, to an abundant and diversified urban nature, connected and linked to human beings,” said Alan DeSousa, Mayor of the Borough of St-Laurent.
The four firms that would work on the completion of the project have indicated that “The winning project’s ‘backbone’ is a narrow strip of wasteland located under the overhead power lines along three main boulevards. According to the plan, the currently sterile lawns will be transformed into flowering meadows that will attract birds, pollinating insects, and small animals. Ground contours and a modulated topography will enliven this enriched landscape, breaking away from a feeling of homogeneity. The plan also includes new pedestrian trails and upgraded bicycle paths, as well as activity or rest areas for the enjoyment of St-Laurent workers and residents.”
A spokesperson for civiliti, Fannie Duguay-Lefebvre, summarized the proposal: “The corridor will enable the transition from a mostly asphalted, fragmented territory to a diversified urban landscape, connected to all living beings.” The Biodiversity Corridor Master Plan received a Special Jury Award for the category “Sustainable Development” in the 2020 edition of the National Urban Design Awards. Organized jointly by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP), and the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects (CSLA), the award is one of the top distinctions in Canada. As commented by the jury, “The promise of urban design is sustainable development—creating economic, environmental, social, and cultural benefits. While this project focuses on the environment, it reflects all Seven C’s’ of urban design: context, character, choice, connections, creativity, custodianship, and collaboration.”
At this time, it is certainly good news that some thought and action are being given to our balance with nature. Any effort to recover biodiversity is undoubtedly a good idea.
Feature image: Cavendish Blvd. North as it would look after the Biodiversity Corridor project is completed (photo: civiliti, LAND Italia, Table Architecture, Biodiversité Conseil)