April 26, 2012

Montreal Quartier des Spectacles

text and images by Pierce Atkinson

While living in Montreal for the last 6 years, I have seen a lot of change and development. Among all of it, "Le Quartier des Spectacles" is a new development that I love! After having opened it's second phase in 2010, the area is currently being used as an outdoor art gallery, a festival venue and a promenade for locals and visitors in the summer months.
The project broke ground in 2008 as part of the city's attempt to bring life back to an area of Montreal that was beginning to be forgotten. The neighbourhood is home to Montreal's Contemporary Art Museum and is surrounded by "Theatre Maisonneuve" and "Salle Wilfred-Pelletier". With such great 'bones' already, the city found it necessary to revive this area of the city with a fresh look and a versatile remodel.
1. The first part of the project added was "Place des Festivals". The public square underwent some serious construction from it's original use as a parking lot and side street. The excavation of 50,000 tonnes of earth was a must to form a gradual slope down to Rue Jeanne-Mance, softening the look and accessibility of the area. Once the parking lot was removed and leveled an underground service room was added for the maintenance of fountains scattered throughout the square. The reconfiguration not only allows but encourages bike use and walking paths. Rue Jeanne-Mance was re-worked from five lanes to three lanes and a new no street parking rule was implemented, eliminating congestion and encouraging pedestrians and bikers. On top of these large scaled reconfigurations "Le Quartier des Spectacles" added what they call two 'Living Showcases' to the 6,141 m² public square. The "Living Showcases" are one story structures located on the sidewalk extension of Rue Jeanne-Mance. These structures are now home to two restaurants in the square. The glass and aluminum used blend with the neighbourhood to make it clear they are part of "Le Quartier des Spectacles". Profits from the rental of the spaces are then put back into cultural events held at the "Place des Festivals"
2. The second part of the project added was "Le Parterre" and the "Promenade des Artistes". A continuation of the "Place des Festivals", "Le Parterre" opened in May of 2010 and is a 3,455 m² extension of the public square mentioned above. Though smaller, the area acts as a second stage during festivals and concerts. The construction involved some major reconfiguration of a main street, de Maisonneuve, and redirecting other smaller streets. Eleven event kiosks were built along both "Le Parterre" and "Promenade des Artistes". These kiosks are convenient removable 9m x 3m x 3m structures equipped with water, electricity and multumedia services. They allow organizers to set up informations, sales and service booths quickly and effeciently. These kiosks can also be used as a showcase for short term or long term artwork. Again the white aluminum and concrete used for these structures repeat throughout the neighbourhood making it clear that these are part of "Le Quartier des Spectacles".

This neighbourhood is fairly active year round but definitely comes alive in the summer. We have amazing Jazz festivals and great Film Festivals held at these venues each year. This was definitely a must in terms of revitilizing the neighbourhood.

Ref: Ville de Montreal - Quartier des Spectacle

April 9, 2012

Ten Unusual Architectural Hotels

By Lia Schopmeyer

It’s that time of year again, when wedding invitations start arriving at your door, the announcement of dream summer weddings from all your friends (or so it seems) proving that love and happiness is surely plentiful in this world. But for anyone that’s still single, the constant reminders of true love can be exasperating. Time for a holiday? I think so. But why not try something a bit different?

While we often focus on the attraction, activities and foreign customs that come with a traditional holiday there are others out there, myself included, looking for accommodation with a culture of its very own. So, for the like-minded, I’ve tracked down the very best quirky, unusual and downright weird lodgings from across the world. Incredible architecture, clever design, and fun environments will keep you entertained.

10. The Grand Sultanate of Abalì - Palermo, Italy
If you want to experience the mysterious Arabian Nights but also like to tuck in to your prawn linguini, then this hotel is the right place for you. Situated in the beautiful Italian city of Palermo, it’s easy to forget that continental Europe sits right outside. The hotel’s interior design delves into the deepest depths of the Prince of Persia experience, even including a personal Jacuzzi if you choose the Sultan Suite. Colorful and bright, just like a holiday should be.

9. EcoCamp - Patagonia, Chile

Nature lover? Eco-conscious? Eco-conscious? I’m assuming you have efficient shower heads and Toto toilets installed throughout your home, right? If the carbon emissions from your flight are weighing heavily on your ethical shoulders, why not make it up by staying in this ultra-cool EcoCamp? Using only 100% renewable resources to power this camp, it stands as a reminder of the nomads who travelled the country and built their shelters using only organic material they found in the surroundings.

8. Jumbo Stay - Stockholm, Sweden

Plane spotters and those more interested in the journey than the goal, this is for you. Why even leave the plane when you can sleep, dine and shower in it? This vintage Jumbo jet has been transformed to welcome not airheads but aerodynamic enthusiasts. These days this plane stays stationary in Stockholm, Sweden and is quite the gimmicky retreat. Unless you suffer from severe cabin fever, this hotel is an experience with more choice than just the chicken or the fish.

7. Les Alicourts Resort Tree Houses - Loire Resort, France
No tree house of horrors here - this romantic retreat is situated in the heart of the beautiful Loire Valley, France. The already picturesque location is transformed by a colony of tree houses that will definitely remind you of the Swiss Family Robinson and their handy monkey butlers.

6. Euro Space Center - Luxemburg, Belgium
Now this is definitely one for the family. While the other retreats focus on tranquility and resting, this space centre accommodation is for people who have their head in the clouds, or stratosphere, perhaps. Futuristic creativity seems to have run out when it comes to the bedrooms, however – they’re much more hostel-esque than five stars, but then this stay is not about lying in bed. Packed with activities, it’s a much more educational getaway than your favorite cartoon character-themed amusement park, which often ends up as a fairy tale rip-off.

5. Dog Bark Park - Idaho, USA
That’s right, no need to rub your eyes in disbelief - this is a Trojan Dog. It may look like a surrender gift from your enemies but really it houses people who have paid to stay inside a dog. Not your usual kennel, this charming little B+B in Cottonwood has only two connected rooms available for overnight guests. For the owners, it’s more about the artwork – they use chainsaws to create canine and other animal carvings which they display and sell in Dog Bark Park. If you were to say they are barking mad, you’d be right. The toilet is housed inside a giant fire hydrant. However, it’s safe to say that for once you will be able to enjoy your stay in the dog house.

 4. Kokopelli’s Cave - New Mexico, USA
Let your primitive caveman and woman instincts out in this remarkable, rocky reservoir. Embedded in the beautiful mountains of New Mexico, USA you’ll find spacious rooms within. Under the hot south-western sun this cool, carved out cave will provide a welcome chill for visitors. The rooms are worked into the 65 million year old sandstone and offer you an amazing view over the Four Corners area.

3. Hôtel de Glace - Quebec, Canada
From sunny New Mexico to the bitter cold icy palace of the Hôtel de Glace - this is not your usual icebox hotel. This one is rebuilt every year with fresh ice and snow which takes about 5 weeks to complete. It is renowned for its artistic and stunning display of frozen water, and certainly not to be mistaken for a series of extravagant conservatories.

2. Jules Undersea Lodge – Florida, USA
This most unusual hotel is probably one of the many discarded business ideas of Jules Verne but it has since become reality under the name Jules Undersea Lodge. Originally built as a research facility in the 1970s it now offers nautical accommodation for people who want to sleep with the fishes. This unusual lodge is situated just off the coast of Florida in Key Largo and is definitely not for the claustrophobic.

1. Kasbah du Toubkal – Imil, Morocco
This breath taking hotel is placed on top of the highest mountain in North Africa - Morocco to be exact, and is not too far away from the markets of Marrakesh. This retreat is not Vertigo friendly but does offer you an outstanding view of the tranquil surroundings. For visitors who want to enjoy the sight but don’t want to stay overnight, this resort can be booked to visit from mere hours to a week.


So there we have it, the 10 quirkiest accommodations from across the globe. But will it be enough to make you ditch that bucket and spade?

All Photos courtesy of Unusual Hotels of the World

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