While the Monkey frequently seeks out a city’s antiquities, he’s no century snob. Here, the Monkey explores a few of Montréal, Canada’s 20th Century wonders.
In addition to its historic pedigree, Montréal has many brashly modern marvels that interact seamlessly with the city’s ancien aspects. Aside from the development push that came with the city’s economic surge beginning in the 1960s, Montréal also played host to two major events that contributed to the modern face of the city: Expo 1967 and the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. Expo ‘67 was a very successful world’s fair that drew over 50 million visitors to the city during its one year run. The 1976 Olympics again drew mass crowds, and the world was awed by the 14-year old Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comaneci, who scored no less than seven perfect 10.0s!
While many of the Expo pavilions were removed, several Olympic structures remain in use (see the other photos on this page). The Monkey is visiting another place altogether in this photo: the Centre des Sciences de Montréal, a museum near the port in the old city, fronted by this flashy molecular model.
Following the lead of Munich in 1972, Montréal chose to build a radical stadium to host the 1976 Olympic Games. The Montréal planners opted for a revolutionary structure with a retractable roof anchored by a soaring, mast-like tower tilted at a 45 degree angle. The bold design was by the French architect Roger Taillibert, but it wasn’t to be, at least at first. Budget overruns, a major labor dispute, and unforeseen subsoil problems at the site all resulted in construction delays. A big push saw the necessary parts of the structures completed by the start of the games, but other components— including the signature tower you see behind the Monkey—had to be left until after the Olympics. The tower was finally completed in 1987, and became the world’s tallest inclined structure, at 169 meters.
From this vertigo-inducing viewpoint atop the Stade Olympique’s leaning tower (reached by funicular, no less!), the Monkey was able to inspect the bizarre geometric shapes of the stadium’s new roof, added in 1998. The original roof was not completed in time for the 1976 Games, as it required the tower to retract the kevlar roof. The roof did become functionally retractable for a period in the 1980s and 1990s, but was damaged by high winds in 1991and had to be replaced by a non-moving roof. Given the various construction difficulties, the Stade went well over budget and ended up with a price tag over $1 billion (Canadian). Overall, the 1976 Olympic Games are said to be the most expensive ever—a fact Montréal has never lived down.
The Stade was home to the Montréal Expos from 1977 to 2004, until the odd cross-cultural experiment of baseball in francophone Canada came to an end with the team’s move to Washington, D.C. The stadium continues to host many events, and its unique look makes it popular with visitors.
While the Stade steals the stage, Taillibert’s Velodrome was perhaps the most striking structure at the Olympic Park. The asymmetric sloping roof, resembling an insect, covered a track burrowed into the ground beneath the soaring, skylit ceiling. Later, the velodrome was converted into an eco-attraction, the Biodôme (below).
You would hardly guess, but in this shot the Monkey is visiting the scene of the Montréal Olympic Games’ bicycling events! After the Olympics, the city government transformed the velodrome into a zoo-like attraction called the Biodôme. Containing four separate exhibits that recreate distinct ecosystems—Arctic/Antarctic, tropical forest, St. Lawrence maritime, and Laurentian forest—the Biodôme houses hundreds of plant and animal species. The Monkey saw some simian friends, as well as penguins, beavers, and sloths. Here he inspects the Biodôme’s St. Lawrence ecosystem display. The nearby Jardin Botanique (see this post) offers more opportunities to explore the flora and fauna of various regions of the world.
Beyond modern buildings, Montréal has many interesting modern art pieces installed around the city. This charming sculpture, outside a gallery on Rue St-Denis, seemed happy to greet the Monkey.
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