The SDC Quartier Latin mandated Signature design and LAAB to design an urban experience for the pedestrianization of Saint-Denis Street in the summer of 2022.
Agora Maximus is an innovative pedestrianization project that pushes the boundaries of tactical urbanism by proposing highly durable, integrated, and heavily planted modular installation, combined with an instantly iconic signature inspired by Montreal’s Quartier Latin.
Use the codes and quality of permanent furniture
The installation uses the codes and the quality of permanent furniture adapted for a seasonal installation, notably by the choice of materials and finishes.
The concept is based on the combination of modules that can be reconfigured over the years (the project will return in 2023 and 2024!). This capacity for modularity was one of the key design criteria during the design phase.
The design team’s approach proposes an immersive and vibrant temporary streetscape installation, confirming the Quartier Latin’s legacy as the founding place of the city’s French institutions, as well as showcasing its vibrant festive culture and joie de vivre. Drawing on this singular identity, the concept and storyline aim to playfully project the identity of mythical Saint-Denis Street, with its resolutely “Latin” character.
As such, the Agora Maximus is an inclusive urban form that celebrates the seasonal pedestrianization of St-Denis Street (2022-2024) with viewing platforms and vantage points to take in the animated streetscape and its offerings of living arts during the summer festivals. Immersive and intriguing, it combines two landmarks of Latin culture: the Agora, a place for civic meetings, and the Circus Maximus, a linear amphitheater for live entertainment. In this way, the concept pays homage to festivals, circuses, and experimental arts by transforming the urban space into a linear stage, with striking pixelated pop-up seating arrangements placed at intervals along the street.
Mainly located in front of the historic St-Sulpice Library in 2022, then along the whole street in 2023 and 2024, the modular platforms offer accessible open spaces for pedestrians to socialize and take in the scenery. Their stepped profile evokes the main staircases of the cultural institutions of the Quartier Latin. Informal and playful, they take the form of colorful mounds of “pixels” filled with greenery, enhancing the tree coverage of St-Denis Street.
The 2022 installation includes 89 pixels of 5 different heights. Their generous dimensions allow them to be used as benches or platforms, but also as large planting boxes for perennials and shrubs that will be reused in the coming years.
An important component of the design was the integration of vegetation, a key element in the success of temporary installations according to several surveys. As for the furniture, the greenery was approached with sustainability as a main criterion by landscape architect Bao Nguyen (Studio B). It relies, among other things, on selecting plants that can be reused.
For the first year of Agora Maximus, the project team favored a striking gesture, concentrating the intervention in front of the Saint-Sulpice library. The entrance to the pedestrian zone is identified by the presence of the pillars of Hercules, evoking an ancient portal.
The various platforms are linked by a continuous street-art graphic intervention made of pixel patterns along the whole length of the street, providing an ever-changing visual journey for pedestrians. A paired strategy of visual/graphic dressing of key commercial windows along the street enhances the immersive stroll and urban experience between de Maisonneuve and Sherbrooke streets.
Project designed & delivered in collaboration with LAAB Collective, for the SDC Quartier Latin & the Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles de Montréal.
Landscape architect: Bao Nguyen (Studio B)
Images: Raphaël Thibodeau