Architects say nixed Champlain Bridge design competition is big loss

Some Montreal architects are calling the federal government’s decision to back out of an international design competition for the new Champlain bridge is a missed opportunity.

Federal government says much-needed replacement bridge will be built by 2018

Crews work on Montreal's aging Champlain Bridge. (CBC)

Some Montreal architects say the federal government’s decision to cancel a design competition for the new Champlain Bridge is a missed opportunity.

Earlier this month, federal Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel announced the much-needed replacement would be completed by 2018, three years earlier than originally planned. But that new schedule comes without the architectural design competition that many had been expecting. 

Instead, the design of the bridge has been awarded to Danish architect PoulOve Jensen, who will be working with engineers at Arup Canada, Inc. on the new Champlain.

Will this become the greatest boondoggle in Montreal’s history, making the Olympic Stadium look like child’s play?- Stephen Leopold, Real Estate entrepreneur

CBC’s Cinqà Six spoke with Montreal architects Philippe Drolet and Louis Lemay, as well as Real Estate entrepreneur Stephen Leopold, who founded Audacité Montreal, a movement to replace the Champlain Bridge with an "architectural icon."

All three professionals agree on one thing — opting out of the design competition is a major misstep. 

Lemay told Cinq à Six host Jeanette Kelly that a competition would bring out the best of Montreal talent, and provide an opportunity to shine on the international stage. 

He says that building strictly for purpose — and not pleasure — leaves something wanting.

“If we just think about building for the use, then we miss a point. We wouldn’t have a Vienna, a Paris, a London, if we were just thinking about the use," he said.

Leopold agrees, and that's why he's still hoping to convince officials to hold a competition.

Recently the federal government released an updated schedule for the bridge's development. Originally planned to be completed in 2021, the replacement bridge is now set to be built by 2018.

Leopold says he's concerned about what kind of shortcuts are being taken in order to make that happen. 

"All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the magic wand touches the Champlain Bridge, and bingo — three of the eight years of construction have been knocked off. How is that done?"

"Will this become the greatest boondoggle in Montreal’s history, making the Olympic Stadium look like child’s play?"


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