UNESCO Cities of Design: Montréal as a Prototype
For six days in May 2011, a diverse group of 22 designers, artists, and researchers from seven countries explored and interrogated Montréal’s 2006 designation as North America’s first and only UNESCO City of Design. This residency was organized in partnership with DesignInquiry, a non-profit educational organization devoted to researching design issues in intensive team-based gatherings. Participants were prompted to consider what characteristics exemplify a “City of Design”. Do designers control these qualities, or do they evolve out of the ways people use the city? Given its status as a cultural hub, does Montréal contain inherent design qualities in its topographies, citizens, and outputs? To investigate these questions, DesignInquiry moved throughout Montréal on foot, Metro and bicycle, capturing experiences, photographs, and impressions of planned and spontaneous design in the urban environment. Expeditions to the sites of Expo 67 and Olympic Park provided opportunities for reflection upon the lifespan of urban design and decay, while dérives through St. Laurent's varied food vendors and Griffintown's turbulent state of structural transition revealed the layering of competing cultural constructions. Even the shared live-work space embodied the concept of design in flux. The building has functioned as a nunnery and chapel since 1861, was partially turned over to Concordia University in 2007 for use as student residences, and will eventually house the institution's entire Faculty of Fine Arts. The impressions, findings, and works-in-progress of the participants coalesced into a site-specific public installation as part of a citywide design festival. The assembled nature of the work referenced the collaborative, flat hierarchy structure of DesignInquiry, which promotes cross-disciplinary contribution and the free and equal exchange of information and ideas. Illustrating the multiplicity of viewpoints gleaned from a shared experience, the exhibition demonstrated the continuing synthesis of questions inspired by Montréal's designation as a UNESCO City of Design.
Keywords: Cultural Diversity, The Built Environment, UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Urban Planning, Economic Sustainability, Collaborative Research
Prof. Christopher Moore
Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director, Department of Design and Computation Arts, Concordia University