Ste-Catherine St. West is a busy commercial thoroughfare in the heart of Montreal. Answering the City’s call to create a temporary urban design intervention that would mitigate four years of major roadworks, WORKSHOP proposed to bring the street to life as “Catherine.”
Catherine has Twitter and Instagram accounts which she uses to share her latest selfies, event info and construction progress. If you follow her, she will tell you about a yoga class at lunch, but also give you the bad news that water will be turned off in your building between 3-4pm.
On the street itself, the main physical component of our proposal is a moveable and responsive public square that floats above the busy street on a gantry – a raised platform on wheels. Here, Catherine literally gives us a new perspective — a bird’s-eye view of urban activity and road construction.
She shares information and emotions via a large LED screen and leaves notes in hand script font to help people find their way around her construction.
She uses her robotic “arm” (a small grab crane) to work, dance and play.
WORKSHOP was a finalist in the competition. We did not win, and the project was ultimately cancelled by the incoming mayor.
As construction continues today without any wayfinding or urban design to mitigate, it is clear how helpful Catherine could have been!
“Catherine has her routine, but you never know what she will do next! One day you catch her sleeping through her alarm. The next day she offers a rainbow when it rains.— Helena Grdadolnik
All these elements can be pre-programmed, or triggered by weather reports, to make her seem alive. Her warm and infectious personality gives people a reason to visit, and to return many times.”