Author Archives: jasonprince

Dual purpose summer/winter playgrounds?

Having children gives you a new view on the world, for sure.

On the way back from the Communauto parking lot, a block and a half from home, we stopped at our favourite close park, the Parc des compagnons, that little park on Mont Royal Ave, just East of Papineau (with a concrete banquet table. More on that in a future post.)

The tots wanted to play in the playground, in the middle of winter. They don’t care that it’s minus 20 with the windchill. Aged 6 and 7 now, they decided they wanted to build a snow fort. So we did, around the legs of one of the slides. It was the perfect size and a pre-made roof to boot. Then it dawned on me that really, playgrounds ought to be designed for both summer AND winter play. We finished the fort in a half an hour, but there was no other structure nearby to build another fort under. Just the one. But you need two snow forts to have a snowball fight, no? (Nod to the pacifists here.)

That got me thinking. Why not rethink the park, with winter functions in mind?

We got to chatting, the tots and I. Nibs said: What about just piling the snow up in the playground, for building tunnel forts? (That was my favourite winter past-time, into (huge) snow-dumps from clearing the back alleyway.) Why not snow slides? (Why not?)

Are any playgrounds getting real use in the winter, in Montreal? or are they pretty much dead wastelands, like the Parc des compagnons, until the spring brings the children back? Can anything be done? Would it really be all that costly or dangerous?

The scale of the universe

This is just fantastic. A scalable infographic that shows relative size of objects in the universe, from the sub-nano size of super strings to the unobservably enormous outer limit of the universe. Takes a little time to load, but it’s worth it.

We need something like this that explains urban planning. And includes the political process. Haha!

Anyone wanna try?



Heated sidewalks….?

How many heated sidewalks are there in Montreal?

You know, walkways that just don’t accumulate snow? Maybe they have coils under them. Maybe waste heat from the building.

The only one I know of was in Westmount, on Redfern, in the Reader’s Digest building.

Are there any others?

Should we have more? Are any other cities using them? Could they ever make sense on a large scale? Solar panel heated bike paths?

Sketching café?

Imagine a café, like any independent café you might imagine. Some hipster joint.

This one expects, allows, encourages and (fill in your fave word here)… sketching.

Maybe sculpture, too.

So the business model is simple enough. Coffee, coffee, coffee. (And teas maybe.)

But the added draw…? Ahh, the added draw….!

Not crepes. Not bike parts. Not …. (fill in your fave coffee complement here)…but:

sketching. Everyone is a potential model to another. Pencils for sale, and sketch pads.

Maybe live models some evenings.

Pencil drawings EVERYwhere, evidently, on the walls, in the bathrooms, constantly evolving….

(I *think* it might work.)  (If the location is right.)  (Montreal is the place for it.)

This is a member-based cooperative, evidently. Art supplies at cost.

Public views… from the sky?

Montrealers are lucky, I suppose. We have Mont Royal, with great public views of the city scape from on high, at a few of choice spots, if we include the Westmount Summit.

The Olympic Stadium tower, for a fee, offers a magnificent side view of the mountain and downtown. The Hotel de la Montagne, with its micro-swimming pool, enables a few choice glances for the price of nachos and beer. And Altitude 737, that “bar-disco-drinking complex” on top of Place Ville Marie is another fee option. I still get vertigo thinking of it. Perhaps there are others.

But would it be possible for the city to invest in public views, from some of our skyscrapers?

Imagine: you take a dedicated elevator to the (top…near top) floor of a downtown office building. The entire floor is set up like a public park. A non-profit concession offers veggie dogs and ethical coffee. There’s a children’s playground with swings. Benches and grass. Spectacular views on our city.  The concession provides brown paper bags for those who want to share a discrete glass of wine, but forgot to bring one. A real Montreal moment.

Imaginable, ca?  Has any city ever tried that?

Lightweight interventions to encourage life on Montreal mainstreets

McGill’s community/university alliance yielded many fine research outputs, to be sure, but this one really caught my attention. Master’s student Michael Giulioni proposes a methodology for testing the planning maxim:  “people sit where there are places to sit“.

First, he analyses the streetscape and shows up the holes and breaks that detract from a quality experience, for the pedestrian. The case study is Upper Lachine Road in little Little Italy, just West of the McGill mega-hospital.

Then, he proposes light infill projects to fill in or temporarily repair these gaps and holes, presumably spring/summer/autumn. Perhaps a little fruits and vegetables market? An open-air café extension to a restaurant or bar? Also, here and there, some wooden seats and planters, street furniture. Nothing permanent. Perhaps 100,000$ in public investment.

Finally, we evaluate these interventions. Do people stop more? Does street life improve? Assumption: we have measured the “before state”. That just makes sense, no?

If it has made measurable improvements, we move to the next phase. Perhaps some more permanent changes. Here is a link to the more detailed report.

Montreal has been using this strategy, here and there, over the past few years, on some main streets. Can you think of any?


Bike/People conflict zones

There are so many little places to improve our bike network. Where to start?

One example is found at the corner of Parc Lafontaine/Amhearst and Cherrier. At rush hour, this place is clotted with bikes and in the afternoon, we add joggers, walkers, baby strollers and cars all vying for speedy access to “the other side”.

Eventually we will have the money to find solutions to these hot spots.

What are your favorites?