Montreal

Viger Square makeover infuriates Charles Daudelin's family

The City of Montreal's vision for Viger Square does not include its trademark Agora sculptures made by Quebec artist Charles Daudelin, and the family of the late artist is furious.

Daudelin's public-art piece, Agora, in Viger Square to be replaced with minimalist park

A view of Viger Square from up above. (Radio-Canada)

The family of Quebec sculptor Charles Daudelin is upset after the city announced plans to destroy the artist's Agora installation in Viger Square.

The Daudelin family's lawyer said the artist's family members have always refused to give their consent for the city to dismantle Agora, and they aren't giving it this time either.

Agora is a series of concrete structures in Viger Square, designed by the late Daudelin in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Daudelin died in 2001.

Its beams and platforms were meant to be adorned with hanging plants to mimic the gardens of Greek antiquity; its open spaces, designed for public gatherings and street performers.

Instead, it has become a home to Montreal's homeless, and the elements and vandalism have turned it into an eyesore.

Dinu Bumbaru of Heritage Montreal said the city never helped it live up to its potential — and now, he said, the city is taking the wrong approach by deciding to tear it down.

"Instead of having that very… insignificant — as far as I can say from the drawing we've seen — design that the administration is proposing, having a competition and having the youth of Montreal, the creative youth to the service of that space might be a better idea. Now, having a consultation, two weeks after the decision has been made, what's the point?" he said.

"Maybe it's a bit more responsible to send creative landscape architects like the one that just restored Dorchester Square into a wonderful place, than to send in a bulldozer," Bumbaru continued.

Viger Square makeover will see the destruction of Quebec sculptor Charles Daudelin's Agora. 1:07

Deal or no deal, it's coming down: City

Mayor Denis Coderre said the city does plan to keep part of Agorathe Mastodo fountain.

"We have a duty of memory. Maybe it didn't work well, but still we have to celebrate the artist," Coderre said.

Bumbaru said intellectual property rights could stop the city from altering the work. 

However, Coderre said even if the city can't reach an agreement with the Daudelin family, it will go ahead with scrapping Agora — fountain and all.

"We had to do it," Coderre said. "We wish there was an agreement, but if there is no agreement it's going to be very sad for me and for them because we want to celebrate [Daudelin]."

The renovation of Viger Square, which is expected to be completed in time for Montreal's 375th anniversary, will cost $28 million. The work is expected to begin in the fall.

Viger Square was first opened in 1860. Pictured here is the Place Viger fruit market in Montreal on July 24,1916. (National Archives of Canada/The Canadian Press)

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