Demolition Threat: Square Viger
by Charles Daudelin, Claude Théberge & Peter Gnass, Montreal, Quebec, 1970s
DATE: 0/0/0
The Square Viger is threatened with complete redevelopment that could cause its disappearance. On June 17th, the elected councillor in charge of urban planning projects for Montreal city Mr Richard Bergeron presented his new project whose questionable design didn´t reach consensus. Most of all because it involves the demolition and modification of Agora and Mastodo. These two important works were conceived by internationally renowned sculptor Charles Daudelin who also created the work Embacle (1984), donated by the government of Québec to the city of Paris. Restored in 2011, this sculpture is the highlight of Place du Québec in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

As a work of public art, the Square Viger is part of Montreal´s modern heritage. Still, the memory of the old 19th century Victorian park prevails even if it vanished with the digging of the Ville-Marie expressway in 1976. Commissioned by the Ministry of Transportation the new Square Viger had to cover a portion of the highway underpass. Three major artists designed the park in the manner of a roof terrace divided in three blocks. Charles Daudelin (1920-2001) created an Agora, Claude Théberge (1934-2008) designed a park that recalled the Victorian past of the former park, and finally Peter Gnass (1936-) proposed a playground dedicated to children. At the time, this project represented an innovative response to both technical constraints and artistic aspirations: landscaping despite the thickness of the concrete slab, designing with the ventilation casts of the expressway, and integrating four massive sculptures (Mastodo, Force, Jeux d´enfants and Fontaine). The park perpetuates the tradition of landscape architects Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009) and Garrett Eckbo (1910-2000).

Abandoned by his owner (the City of Montreal) since its inauguration, the Square Viger has soon been criticized for problems largely attributed to an unconventional layout. It gradually suffered from deterioration, lack of maintenance and squatting. Nowadays, it is stigmatized as a deserted and dangerous place. 

The new project of demolition and alteration announced by the City aims especially at Charles Daudelin masterpieces Agora and Mastodo. We wish to denounce the scandalous attitude of the municipal authorities towards its built heritage and its utter despise for the moral rights of its most important artists. At a time when this sector is undergoing urban revitalization, many academics and experts appeal to the authorities that itstabula rasa approach is outdated and unacceptable. Agora can and should be renovated and animated to become safe and friendly again, but not destroyed and cleared out of our collective heritage.

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Picture: Agora and the sculpture Mastodo, Charles Daudelin, 1983. Source: Éric Daudelin, 2013