Student: Theodore Oyama
Advisor: David Theodore
Studio: Directed Research Project
Year/Term: Fall 2015
120 million years ago, an intrusion of magma exploded outward from the centre of the earth. The surface swelled violently but never burst. Eons of erosion by glacier and sea have gradually revealed the solid limestone rock that we now call Mount Royal in the middle of the City of Montreal, more commonly referred to as the “Mountain.” Although no more than a collection of small summits, its intrusion into the urban landscape would forever designate it as an “other” space within the city that engulfed it.
In the 19th century, the Mountain rose above the clouds of smoke streaming from the factory chimneys of the industrial city. Montreal decided to expropriate this undeveloped green space, when it was privatized and on the verge of being swallowed by urbanization. The development of a park in 1876 was seen as the only way to negotiate the new conflicting visions of the Mountain as verdant, salubrious parkland or as public, accessible infrastructure in the heart of the city. Utopic in the incongruity of these two ideals, the park officially entrenched a tension between the [nature of the] city and the [nature of the] Mountain.
I investigate the proposals, events and myths that have either crept their way underneath the surface of this highly curated natural park or have unabashedly been overlaid on top of it. The Victorian park has remained, to this day, the image of the Mountain, yet the park is becoming increasingly distorted. An expanding Montreal is, on the one hand, putting tremendous physical pressure on the park as a piece of infrastructure while, on the other hand, enriching the Mountain with its own stories, conflicts and visions. I do not lament the loss of some antiquated image, but prefer to reorient the park’s character to engage infrastructural elements as public space that connects these stories, conflicts and visions.
In his essay “Des Espaces Autres,” Michel Foucault describes the existence of a cultural space that “juxtaposes in a single real place several sites that are in themselves incompatible” and that breaks with “traditional time.” This project speculates on ways to engage and manipulate the surface to reinforce the Mountain’s role as an “Other Space” in contrast to the (il)logic of the city. It charts new landscapes, uproots and transplants symbols, amputates paths and graft them back together to affirm a new Mountain experience and aesthetic. I want to preserve its singularity for future generations on which to project strange visions, ambitions and projects.