Montréal Metro: Côte Sainte Catherine

By Andrew Bailey

During my year abroad in Montréal, I had the chance to explore the city’s Metro system, a network comprising of 4 lines, 68 stations and just under 70km of rubber-tired track (à la française, of course) The network is the third most heavily used underground in North America (after New York and Mexico City) , with construction starting in the 1960’s and the last extension being completed in 2007.

Public transportation is, for most people, a way of getting from a to b; a necessary evil and rarely a pleasurable experience. However, Montréal is definitely the exception to the rule. Each one of its 68 stations is unique, filled with public art installations and design ranging from the cool and understated to the over the top and breath taking.

Côte-Sainte-Catherine was opened in 1982 in the West of Montréal as a part of a series of extensions to the orange line during the 1980’s. The station’s construction makes much use of bare concrete (a trait of the system), but in a pleasing and imaginative way.

Contrasting movement is the key to this station’s design. Upon entering the station at the street level entrance, the traveller is greeted by a wide corridor curving right around onto a mezzanine, with views down onto the ticket office, turnstiles and platforms. The concrete is of a light grey shade, and, combined with the darker grey tiling and brushed steel railings, a slick futuristic feeling is created. Curving around the wall of the mezzanine is a mural consisting of simple wide diagonal bands of bright orange, yellow and green. The vivid colours contrast with the cool grey concrete exciting the eye, and the diagonal bands echo the direction of the escalator which lies just beyond the end of the mural, directing the eye around the bend and suggesting linear movement; appropriate for a metro system.

The ribbed concrete structure of the sloping hall ceiling has been left bare, mirroring the direction of the escalator and suggesting more linear movement. Once down at ticket office level, a look back up at the escalator/mezzanine reveals another impressive mural, another series of painted metal panels in yellow and orange forming a large arrow back up the escalator; another bold, simple piece which becomes a part of the station structure, blending art with functionality.

Lighting is provided by white globes on brushed steel poles integrated into the railing framework, creating a feeling of clean and well-proportioned order.

Once down at platform level, the feeling of motion is underlined again by a series of interlocking zig-zig concrete panels running the entire length of both platforms. Seating is provided by yellow bucket seats organised in groups of 5 at various points along the platform.

Overall, Côte-Sainte-Catherine is a good example of post-modern architecture: a bright, spacious station integrating simple artwork into the station’s exposed structure. The bold exotic colours contrast well with the cool concrete and unify the station’s different areas, combining to form a well-defined, slick and futuristic space, implicating the traveller in the movement of both the architecture and the journey itself.


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2 responses to “Montréal Metro: Côte Sainte Catherine

  1. I’m impressed that you managed to cut this down to focus on only one metro station, Andy. I remember your enthusiasm for many others on the system. I don’t know of any other city in the world with as diverse a network of highly individual station designs. So much arty concrete – you certainly spent your year abroad in the right place.

  2. Ah, I miss the metro from my time in Montreal. I made a point of going to all the stations.
    Did you ever stumble across this website ? The author goes through all of the stations, tells their history (eg. the tracks for De L’eglise are stacked instead of side by side because they could not dig a stable enough tunnel out of the type of earth found on that part of the island to make a space wide enough for them to be side by side), and rates them according to useful design and attractiveness.

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