This triptych, arranged by Guillaume St-Jean, pays three visits to St. Urbain Street as it descends the slope between Sherbrooke and Ontario streets. The first photo, taken in 1931, reveals a row of classic Victorian greystone houses. By the following year, however, the houses had given way to a new school. Sometime after WWII, the entire block was demolished for a large parking lot. Then, in 2004, the Université du Québec à Montréal expanded its science campus onto the lot.
I think there are a couple of interesting things in these images. First is the way the 1932 school appears to have been built in front of the rowhouse on the right. Although it was common throughout the continent for single-storey commercial blocks to be built on the yard of existing houses, it strikes me as unusual that the same thing would be done for such a substantial-looking new building. What makes this even stranger is that the house on the left appears to have been entirely demolished. Why that one and not the house on the right? Whatever the reason, it gave the streetscape a fascinating layered appearance.
The same cannot be said for the new UQAM building simply because it was built on a blank slate. The parking lot it replaced was enormous, which gave UQAM the opportunity to create a small campus complete with interior streets, passageways and public spaces. The building you see on St. Urbain Street is a student residence. It has been criticized for overwhelming the street with its rather austere façade; it certainly isn’t a friendly building. It’s a notable coincidence, though, that its tall, vertical windows subtly evoke the 1932 building’s same vertical thrust.