A Gas Station in Danger


Mies van der Rohe gas station in May 2007. Photo by Kate McDonnell

As a part of a city’s landscape, does a gas station have any inherent worth? My gut instinct would be to say no: they’re unsightly, detrimental to the pedestrian environment and environmentally destructive. But there’s more to it than that. It’s entirely possible for gas stations to have historical, architectural and cultural value. Some are real neighbourhood businesses, quirky and independently-owned, like the gas station in the Quebec film Gaz Bar Blues. All gas stations speak to the importance of the automobile in the modern city.

Two years ago, Kate McDonnell wrote a bit about gas stations in Montreal, pointing to one in suburban Nun’s Island, designed by Mies van der Rohe, as an example of how they can be built with sensitivity to their surroundings. Built in classic International style, this gas station is a symbol of Nun’s Island’s early development as a Modernist new town. Unfortunately, news broke earlier this month that the station, once operated by Esso, is now closed and boarded up. Montreal’s Conseil du Patrimoine has made steps to have it protected but, for the time being, nothing is guaranteed.


This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Saturday January 17 2009at 01:01 am , filed under Architecture, Canada, Heritage and Preservation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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