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World of Possibilities: Breathing New Life into Montreal's Quartier des Spectacles

Where some see challenges, we see where culture comes to life.


Montreal is a bilingual, North American city where numerous cultures are intertwined. The city's infectious energy and openness to the world contribute to its international reputation, which reinforce its status as an intercultural metropolis. Visitors and inhabitants alike will tell you the same thing: Montreal has a soul. To enhance the unique character on which it prides itself, the City of Montreal decided to breathe new life into its Quartier des spectacles (Entertainment district), a district boasting a rich historical and cultural heritage. Consequently, in 2008, WSP set out to achieve this vision and to apply its expertise to urban design.

The vibrant Quartier des spectacles. Photo by: Stéphan Poulin 


Overcoming the Quartier des spectacles Challenge

The Quartier des spectacles project is an urban revitalization plan, the details of which focused primarily on three key areas at the technical level: infrastructure, planning, and structure. WSP was particularly involved in completely restoring the water and wastewater infrastructure, rebuilding roadways, building sidewalks using interlocking and granite pavers, street lighting, deploying a telecommunications network and the associated multimedia control room, renovating and expanding public utility networks as well as installing adapted street furniture. The WSP team, made up of about 10 members and based in the Laval and Longueuil offices, faced a long and diverse list of challenges.

Daniel Brien has been with WSP for 10 years and was the head of the construction oversight team for Quartier des Spectacles. We sat down with Daniel to learn more about this project and how it has impacted his career.


An Interview with Daniel Brien

What were the project's technical challenges?
Being situated in downtown Montreal was a major challenge as far as organization was concerned. A number of conditions had to be met in order to orchestrate the work on the Quartier des spectacles project. A strict timetable dictated by Montreal's various festival periods, the need to maintain access to businesses and institutions at all times, and the presence of two subway stations and the tunnel, which limited the permitted shocks and vibrations, all complicated the project's completion. During the total redevelopment of Maisonneuve Street, managing dense traffic and maintaining the safety of the many pedestrians was essential.

How did your team manage to overcome these obstacles?
As engineers, we have learned to adapt to about a hundred notifications of change, primarily regarding design modifications and adjustments related to coordinating with adjacent construction sites. One of our team's greatest strengths was to know how to quickly and effectively integrate these changes, making sure they would have as little impact as possible on the completion dates and project costs. And we were successful!

The Promenade des Artistes at night. 


In your opinion, what made this project unique?
Without hesitation, I would say the exposure and recognition of this project on the local, national and international scales. Completed in 2013, the Quartier des spectacles is now a must-see for both Montrealers and visitors from all over the world!

What lessons did you learn from this project?
In project management, project success is generally measured by assessing three key determinants: the schedule, the costs, and the quality. I believe that a project's atmosphere can also influence these three determinants. The general, prevailing atmosphere of the Quartier des spectacles site, from beginning to end, always favoured the search for constructive solutions: whether in terms of coordinating with the other construction sites in the quadrilateral, at the level of solving technical problems, or in relation to safety which was an ongoing concern. This work environment was shaped by all the organizations involved, including the entrepreneurs, who were conscious of the importance of the project and its benefits for the district, even if the objectives of each one remained different. Each contributor felt the pride of participating in the construction of an extraordinary district that raised Montreal's profile.

The Promenade des Artistes set up for summer


What new challenges await your team?
It goes without saying that a project of that magnitude has some influence on the ability to mobilize and motivate the troops! The experience gained in contributing to the development of a project with visionaries, architects and renowned urban designers, fills you with powerful emotions of professional achievement in itself. For this reason the very nature of the structures and the desired impact on the quality of life of Montrealers was the source of a very high degree of motivation and a desire to participate in this adventure. It is with this motivation in mind that the team continues to work on planning projects in Montreal such as the redevelopment of Sainte-Catherine Street, the redevelopment of the Pie-IX — Sherbrooke intersection, and the development of Smith Promenade.

What makes your team unique? What is its greatest strength when it comes to problem solving?
There is a proverb that goes: "None of us is as smart as all of us." Our team's strength manifested as a balance between the designers and the workers on the site as well as the openness between each of us. A seasoned, multidisciplinary team was put together to carry out this project; engineers and technicians with expertise in civil engineering, in structure and infrastructure, in electrical engineering, in mechanical engineering, in telecommunications, in instrumentation, in automation and control, and in traffic all performed well. 

To all those who did their part, thank you for your efforts. You have contributed to the success of the project and to WSP's recognition as a leader in major urban redevelopment projects.

Jean-Marcel Jacques, Design Manager, and Daniel Brien, Monitoring Manager, proud of the work accomplished.


The Quartier des spectacles today

Today, the Quartier des spectacles forms a quadrilateral between the Saint-Hubert, City Councillors, and Sherbrooke streets and René-Lévesque Boulevard. It is easy to move about in a sustainable way thanks to its 3 subway stations, 10 bus routes, and 9 BIXI bicycle-sharing stations. Churning at a frantic rate of more than 100 performances every month, it is a dynamic place that attracts young and old alike. There is no lack of choice with about 80 cultural venues such as performance halls and bars, exhibition venues, and theatres. The Quartier des spectacles is also the place where famous artists perform along with those from the emerging scene. As its slogan goes: The Quartier des spectacles is "the most emotion found in a 1km2 radius."

For additional information about Quartier des spectacles, please contact
Daniel Brien.