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Université de Montréal – Montréal, UNESCO City of Design initiative

By on August 30, 2016
Université de Montréal

Contact name and title
Philippe Poullaouec-Gonidec, professor and chairholder of UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design (CUPEUM)


Title of activity
Montréal, UNESCO City of Design initiative

Description of activity
Montréal was appointed a UNESCO City of Design in June 2006. In September 2008, the City of Montreal (Design Montréal) and the UNESCO Chair in Landscape and Environmental Design at Université de Montréal (CUPEUM) launched the Building Montréal, UNESCO City of Design initiative, renamed simply Montréal, UNESCO City of Design in 2011.

“Neither label nor a form of recognition, the appointment of Montréal as UNESCO City of Design is an invitation to develop Montréal around its creative forces in design.” When the initiative partners spoke these words at the launch of Montréal, UNESCO City of Design in 2008, they set in motion a [process] built around the recognition of the creative potential of Montreal and its people in using design tools to positively influence the city. Networking, creativity and dialogue were the touchstones of the structure-enhancing approach of the Montréal, UNESCO City of Design initiative.

The initiative intended to “…mobilize the different stakeholders of urban development around the project to [better] make [design, build] the city with [more] designers.” That objective implied three key strategies:
> Enhancing creativity through design and architecture competitions for development projects with a public scope;
> Boosting the local and international visibility of Montréal design through a website (www.mtlunescodesign.com) and publications such as the YUL/MTL : Moving Lansdscapes book published by CUPEUM;
> Fostering dialogue among citizens, designers and elected officials through public forums and awareness activities.

Sustainable development goals where mainly reach through the emphasis on improving
> Project planning and implementation processes;
> The design quality of project;
> Inclusion of a wide range of stakeholders;
> Local know-how in urban design;
> Access to public procurement for younger professionals.

During this process CUPEUM’s role was manifold and aimed to:
> Frame the theoretical and conceptual background of the initiative;
> Collaborate in the implementation of specific project either through documentation or through direct project coordination;
> Appraise the impacts of the initiative.

Sustainable Development Goal 11 targets relating to activity
11.3 By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries
11.a Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, per-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning

Main themes of this activity
Planning and Design

Changes that took place as a result of this activity
The initiative has helped raise the standards of quality in design:
> through implementation of competitions for projects where design quality is not normally a focus:
– Industrial design competition for new recycling bin
– Design competition for the development of movable street furniture elements for use by festivals
– Bus shelter design competition
– Architecture competition for the construction of a soccer complex at Saint-Michel Environmental Complex (SMEC)
– Architecture competition for the construction of a sports complex in Saint-Laurent

> through the production of 3 support tools:
– Handbooks of Best Practices in Urban Design (Ville de Montréal, 2008. Montréal Ville UNESCO de design, Imaginer, réaliser la ville du 21e siècle)
– Guide to development of competition documents
– Handbook on management of Montreal’s urban landscapes (CUPEUM, 2011. Montréal en paysages)

> through training/development opportunities for design professionals in competitions:
– 180+ professionals as jurors
– 15+ professionals as professional advisors

The initiative has engaged the transformation of spaces and sites in several Montreal boroughs.
> 12 of 19 boroughs have been involved in design and architecture competitions and workshops
> 3 linked municipalities and 5 boroughs were involved in the international ideas competition YUL-MTL: Moving landscapes and the WAT_UNESCO-Montréal workshop

This creative initiative has attracted new agencies, young professionals and students.
> 2 competitions with student divisions + 3 workshops exclusive to students
> 12 design and architecture competitions with an initial anonymous selection of finalists (sketches rather than application files)
>The annual competition Light Therapy in Quartier des spectacles has seen:
– an increase in the number of participating professional agencies and teams participating between 2011 and 2013
– diversification of practices and disciplines between 2011 and 2012
– a dramatic increase in the number of participating architecture firms and multidisciplinary teams between 2012 and 2013

How the impact of the activity was measured
Upon the completion of the first phase of implementation of the Montreal, UNESCO City of Design initiative, CUPEUM collaborated with the City of Montreal to prepare two reports appraising its results. A first report titled Montreal UNESCO City of Design in Action and by the Numbers, succinctly described the activities deployed to implement the appointment of Montréal as a UNESCO City of Design (http://unesco-paysage.umontreal.ca/uploads/documents/MtlUD_CompteRendu_PDF_EN_130923_s.pdf).

A second report aimed to measure the impact of the initiative with a broader view by appraising the public perceptions toward the designation as well as by evaluating the relation between actions and goals (http://unesco-paysage.umontreal.ca/uploads/documents/Compte_rendu___Chantier_MVUD___perceptions_et_evaluations_des_actions_s1.pdf). This study was done through individual interviews with key stakeholders. The results showed that the Montreal, City of Design designation was generally perceived as positive and as an opportunity of change for Montréal. It is also acknowledge that the tools used help to:
> Promote the actions of the City;
> Increase awareness all the stakeholders of city’s development on the impact of design quality.

Competitions as a procurement process were also considered essentials in regards to:
> The right of information of the general public;
> Procurement process transparency;
> Visibility of professional designers.

Both report showed that the amount and diversity of achievements as well as their nature and scope illustrate the municipal will to mobilize all stakeholders in improving the quality of Montréal’s urban landscape and living environments. But the true measure of its benefits will only be taken after completion of several development projects, particularly with regard to the fundamental objective of enhancing the role of “good design” in planning and building the Montréal of tomorrow. The true impact of the activities on this objective will be measured upon project delivery and through expert and user judgement. Undeniably, though, the great number of activities so far conducted is a reflection of public enthusiasm for “urban design” and the Montréal design community’s vital role in lending tangible expression to the city’s appointment as a UNESCO City of Design.

It is also worth mentioning that through the emphasis on publication the initiative will continue to influence to development of Montreal as well as of others cities around the world. As such, the YUL/MTL : Moving Landscapes book won a 2016 National Award of Excellence from the Canadian Society of Landscape Architect.

Links related to the activity
  • http://unesco-paysage.umontreal.ca/
  • http://unesco-paysage.umontreal.ca/en/researches-and-projects/montral-ville-unesco-de-design
  • http://unesco-paysage.umontreal.ca/uploads/documents/MtlUD_CompteRendu_PDF_EN_130923_s.pdf
  • http://unesco-paysage.umontreal.ca/uploads/documents/Compte_rendu___Chantier_MVUD___perceptions_et_evaluations_des_actions_s1.pdf
  • https://designmontreal.com/en
Additional notes
Created in 2003, CUPEUM is a scientific body that applies research and higher education to the development of cities and their landscapes. To address issues relating to the preservation, enhancement and development of urban landscapes in various regions throughout the world, CUPEUM is involved in a variety of scientific activities (research/education) in partnership with local communities. In 2013, it was recognized by UNESCO as a center of excellence in urban design for its role as a bridge-builder between the academic, research and civil society.

Given the complexity of urban development issues, CUPEUM promotes platforms for international reflection to envision creative solutions most likely to promote quality urban environments, showcase cities’ identities, and resolve environmental, social as well as economic problems. These solutions are contingent first and foremost on sharing, dialogue and cooperation among cultures.

CUPEUM focuses all of its activities on the internationalization of knowledge in the areas of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, and ecology through academic solidarity, professor and student mobility and the commitment of local and national governments. All CUPEUM activities contribute to educating, awareness-building and guiding elected officials and municipal experts, governments and citizens for the future of their territory.

CUPEUM thus promotes the sharing of knowledge, teaching experiences and bilateral and multilateral research (seminars and projects) with the active support of all its partners, particularly the countries of five global regions (North and South America, Europe, North Africa, Middle East, and Asia).

Being of the UNESCO’s Unitwin network, CUPEUM’s workshop support the implementation of the following programs: MAB (Man and the Biosphere) MOST (Management of Social Transformation) ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) WHC (World Heritage).