Simple Design, Transforming the City

Jean-Talon Station’s southwest exit in 2010

Rendering by MileEnd Design

The southwest exit of Montreal’s Jean-Talon metro station — a small but interesting specimen of contemporary architecture — is situated along Jean-Talon Street, at the end of a huge parking lot and between some commercial strips in need of renovation. In that situation, we can hardly tell the difference between the street itself and the parking lot; the sidewalks are invisible.

And yet this is the main exit one uses to reach Jean-Talon Market, one of the most famous landmarks in midtown Montreal. And the area’s density means that Jean-Talon is also a street often densely packed with commuters.

As part of a design exercise, we’ve been thinking about how we could transform this area without investing a significant amount of important resources, and in what way this could be done in the short term.

The simple solution we provide here is an outdoor café and terrace, where people could simply stop by for a drink or have something on their way to the office. The design of the public space suggested, using trees, plants and some furniture, helps structure the street itself. It is, as you can see, a basic concept that we prepared quickly to use as an example.

In light of this solution, do you think Montreal — or other cities — ought to invest resources in some similarly simple transformations ? Could our quality of life be significantly upgraded by little more than such simple urban design?

Rendering by MileEnd Design

This entry was written by Daniel Corbeil , posted on Tuesday April 05 2011at 03:04 pm , filed under Architecture, Art and Design, Canada, Public Space and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

8 Responses to “Simple Design, Transforming the City”

  • Simple is often best — and Jean-Talon is in special need of some simple design interventions. It already has crowds, a diverse mix of businesses, a location next to a major metro station, but there’s very little quality public space outside the market itself.

    I really like the movable café chairs and tables you have in your rendering. When they’re implemented, they’re usually very successful (just look at New York and Paris, which have them in abundance). But there always seems to be a big hurdle to jump to get them installed in the first place because people think they will be stolen.

  • Well as you said in your example, in New York you can find the very beautiful (even if classic) Bryant Park (near the library) and in Paris Jardins du Luxembourg or Les Tuileries, where chairs and tables or available and doesn’t seem to disappear after time..

    Of course, in some cities like Montreal, everything outside tend to be stolen, but there is always a way to attach them overnight…

    What are they doing for such small public spaces in Hong Kong ?

  • John Commins says:

    Thanks that exit needs help. What is even more alarming is the amount of tourists who use that exit to go to the Jean Talon Market.What an embarrassment,no signage and ugly.

  • Well, what does especially discourage me, is how Montreal – like most major north-american cities – tend to leave any urban design incomplete and incoherent..

    For example, as you can see in the “now” picture above, why are we finding such diversity of installations : bell public phone, the parking station, the bus station, the huge recycling box, the salt box.. And nothing in any kind of relation between each other!

    As well as there are installed in what seems like a random position…

    Urban design has to be coherent, simple and usefull to improve our urban life.

  • Jo Walton says:

    Great between May and September, but even more dismal for the rest of the year than what’s there now.

  • Freknur says:

    An appealing redesign, especially with the trees and café seating; however the reimagined exit has removed the covered bus shelter, which would make life miserable 7 months of the year. As summers are short (and increasingly wet) in Montréal, I’d like to see images of how this space would to function during the winter, as well as monsoon-type downpours (which seem to be on the rise).

  • As i can notice, there are many different ideas and reactions regarding a simple redesign of a public space, and all of your comments are more than welcome.

    Here is what i propose for more participation :

    Submit to me, via email, a public space that needs to be redesign, and the Mile End Design team will try to produce a sample concept within a week (or two), for your appreciation and future comments

    Maybe that way we could send some ideas to the city !

    Here are some conditions :

    – As to be in central and walkable districts (any city)
    – As to be around a public transport station (train/tram/metro/bus)

    – The redesign as to be inexpensive and versatile

    Please join with the location a short description of the area and what you believe to be the main urban problem.

    If you want, you could explain the first vision you had in mind for that specific public space..

  • sarah b says:


    I leave right across from said parking lot and exit, and I too dream of it no longer being a parking lot (except for communauto that is situated there). I think that it would be really nice to reappropriate the space as public, and like the idea of having a terrace cafe situated there, but that seating be like a park and considered common. I would take it further and encourage us to think about having a non-profit, social enterprise, or co-op running such a cafe. It could also have something like a b-ball court, lawn bowling etc. I think it would be a really nice edition to the neighbourhood.