With Montreal’s main commercial strip – rue Sainte-Catherine – set to undergo four years of infrastructure updates, the city launched a competition in 2016 seeking solutions to help lessen the impact on businesses. The winning design, by local firm Kanva, was revealed later that year, and it has since earned the firm a slew of awards, including finalist status at the 2018 World Architecture Festival.
Contemplating the constant evolution of this important urban artery, the architects began to draw comparisons with biological transformation, eventually arriving at a solution that they named for the final stage of an insect’s metamorphosis: Imago is a series of inflatable catenary arches that anchor to concrete Jersey walls on either side. Made from a recyclable polymer, the modules are lightweight and easily movable as work on the street progresses. Placed over the torn-up sections of roadway, the structures would not only create a more aesthetically appealing streetscape, but also buffer noise and shelter pedestrians from dust. Linked together in a row or even in radial configurations, the six-metre-long modules can be used in pairs or in a chain of up to five.
According to the architects, Imago is versatile enough that its uses are extendable beyond the protection and animation of pedestrian areas during construction projects; it could also be deployed, they say, across Montreal’s 19 boroughs – or in any city – as an identity tool and experiential installation, shaping community and gathering spaces year-round.
Unfortunately, plans to install Imago along rue Sainte-Catherine were cancelled by the city’s new government in 2018, but – given the accolades the concept has earned – it is sure to be realized somewhere else soon.
AZ Awards category Concepts: Ideas and Prototypes Project Imago Location Montreal, Canada
Firm Kanva, Montreal, Canada Team Rami Bebawi and Tudor Radulescu with Olga Karpova, Dina Safonova, Minh-Giao Truong, Blackwell, Martin Roy et associés, Bruce Mau Design, Paul-André Linteau, Susan Bronson, Gabrielle Mathieu, Alta Construction and LightFactor
The winner in Concepts: Ideas and Prototypes offers an ingenious – and aesthetically pleasing – solution to construction hoarding.