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05 February 2007

"Abandoned Turcot rail yards come to life with creative vision"

By, Andy Riga
The Gazette

Published: Monday, February 05, 2007

Photographs by Gordon Beck

It's a sprawling wasteland scarred by graffiti and dotted with tall, drab, decrepit concrete pillars - a scab on Montreal's landscape that grumbling commuters inch past in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

To you, maybe.

To photographer Ken McLaughlin, the Turcot interchange and abandoned rail yards in west-end Montreal are a visual feast, a hiking trail, an online passion.
To visual artist Doug Scholes, the interchange is a creative inspiration, a temple for the automobile that evokes Britain's Stonehenge.

To archaeologist Daniel Marchand, it's an unfinished work of art that he's anxious to complete, paint can in hand.

Cheap Priceless Editions could just as easily have blogged this item under the banner headline:

Local Blogger Makes The Headlines !!!

CPE has frequently called its readers attention to the blogroll (left sidebar) links. There, Blogaulaire links you to Walking Turcot Yards (WTY) as a photo-commentary site run by colleagues and friends. (There are other interesting links to check out as well)

Today, special mention should be made of one in particular.

The Montreal Gazette just now ran a piece based on interviews of the blog owner over at Walking Turcot Yards (WTY). The blogger and the site got a well deserved, long feature write up, signed by Andy Riga. CLICK on the title ABOVE and CHECK IT OUT.

The upside to all this media attention is that the publicity is clearly favourable: the text gives positive reasons to support the alternatives that concerned residents and urban reformers propose for reclaiming abandoned urban spaces to make the zone accessible, enjoyable and enriching for all local residents.

The potential downside to the attention now drawn to Turcot Yards is that it attracts still more speculators who also read The Gazette like vultures.(These real estate interests keep landing on the blog Walking Turcot Yards as well as our own Cheap Priceless Editions browsing around to check out what we post and see how all this may affect their own, self-interested commercial proposals!)

So all this increased regional attention sort of ups the ante on moving toward better alternatives for the abandoned site. Montrealers who yearn for more green spaces need to be mobilised sooner than later.

Montreal AutorouteThough these considerations are no marginal matter, YOU THE READER have a nice long article to enjoy and maybe bookmark. So we shall get on with the blogged content for your own further enlightenment!

"I'm sure people driving by or stuck in traffic think, 'How can they improve this piece of s---?' " McLaughlin said during a walk on the desolate stretch that he describes as the world's largest urban abandoned space. "But a lot of people have no idea what was on the ground here."

They also probably haven't meandered underneath, appreciating the view. He realizes his walks are illegal, but he has only ever been stopped once - by a Surete du Quebec officer who warned him he risks a $142 fine.

"Image-wise, it is very interesting because it looks so different at different times of the day. I like the shapes, the lines, the lighting, the fact that you've got this huge open space in a big city," said McLaughlin.

Big Sky at Turcot Yards

"I like the dramatic sky - you see a lot of big sky at Turcot Yards," he added, pointing to an expanse that is clear blue but for a few wisps of cloud. "There are also subtle little things - the way things grow here. You're constantly seeing nature trying to grab something back."

McLaughlin has taken 1,500 photos of the place, 75 of which he has posted online: colourful graffiti on pillars; views from a now-demolished observation tower; shots of stuff he comes across - an empty suitcase, piles of rocks, locked bikes.

He also points visitors to other sites focused on Turcot, such as Urban Exploration Montreal, a group of people who trespass to explore, then document their endeavours online. At Turcot, they picked through the detritus of abandoned (now razed) buildings, then posted pictures and videos of the adventure.

On Walking Turcot Yards, visitors find historic photos and tidbits about the area's past. They also view pictures and articles about creative ways other cities are dealing with transportation and other urban projects: a colourful, functional and innovative highway/sound barrier in Melbourne, Australia; a green-and-yellow interchange in Dallas; an urban garbage dump turned into a 3-hectare public park in Cairo.

McLaughlin envisages a park at Turcot - "some kind of public space that connects to St. Henri and that has staircases coming down from N.D.G."

In the summer, he braves swarms of mosquitoes to walk a trail along the Falaise St. Jacques. The poplar-lined escarpment on the property's north perimeter is used by migratory birds and is one of the city's protected "ecoterritories."

The article also discusses St. Henri resident artist Doug Scholes's artistic renderings of Turcot Yards visions on canvas and with photo-montage.

" 'If you're on site, there is a sense of awe and wonder at its sheer size,' an experience he compares to entering a Gothic church."

Scholes, 45, lives in St. Henri, close to the interchange. He has researched its history and sees it as a symbol of 1950s and '60s urban idealism, when the raised highway was like something out of The Jetsons.

"There was always this underlying idealistic view that they were going to somehow make city living better (and) be able to move through the city freely without inhibiting or damaging the communities," he said. "In fact, it damaged the communities, creating fissures."

- emphasis adde by Blogaulaire

Links to websites

Links to websites that find interchange worth exploring

Walking Turcot Yard:

Meandres Urbains Essentiels:

Urban Exploration Montreal:

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