Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Big O sits and waits

Montreal, QC,
August 2014
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When Montreal's Olympic Stadium was unveiled in advance of the 1976 Summer Games, it almost seemed as if it had descended from the future. This spaceship-like concrete monstrosity topped by the world's tallest inclined tower was the brainchild of Parisian architect Roger Taillibert. His radical design - along with the Velodrome and swimming facilities at its base - represented the unbridled optimism of a world-class-city.

Unfortunately, history treated this building as savagely as it did the city where it was ultimately built. Massive cost overruns, delays and corruption meant the tower and roof were nowhere to be seen when the games opened in July. By that November, the separatist-driven Parti Quebecois came to power and ushered in a new era of economic darkness and social upheaval. As Montreal's star faded amid a massive outflow of talent to Toronto to the west, The Big O, as it was known, became a symbol of misplaced optimism, out-of-touch design and lost opportunity.

Fast forward to today and the Montreal Expos major league baseball team is long gone, the CFL's Alouettes football team has relocated to Molson Stadium, and the mostly empty Big O, long deemed one of the worst sports venues on the planet, now sits quietly as it awaits an uncertain fate.

But if you look at it just so, in isolation of the forces that created - and ultimately rejected - it, the structure remains a compelling piece of architecture. I remain hopeful for a brighter future for it, because history often takes more than a mere few decades to give truly revolutionary buildings their due.

Your turn: Why do we love/hate buildings like this as much as we do?

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21 Wits said...

One reason, less is more. It's my belief, (and I know so many sport fans will object) but too much money/time/heartache goes into a place like that. For me, I'd rather have an open sky above my head while watching a game, while also listening to the announcer making little comments in the background like, Train.... Canadian train, airplane.... and etc. as life goes on about the baseball field.

21 Wits said...

Case in point- (although things have been changing since this video)
I think you'll enjoy this.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Carmi, hosting the Olympics is a huge financial drain on the city. Typically, they get stuck with huge promises, and bills that last for generations.

Currently, Boston is being snowed with former.

rashbre said...

Wow - it looks pretty impressive, especially when viewing your picture at full size.

Jeremiah Andrews said...

Montrealers are of two minds. Some still see architecture, others see an eyesore that should be demolished. I've never been inside that building and I've lived here almost fifteen years. I do appreciate the building when looking down from above. One of the highlights I share with friends who visit, is climbing the mountain, halfway up the mountain on the East side is one particular lookout point, where a large boulder sits. From there one can see the Big O in all its grandeur. It is quite the view from up there. I think they should knock it down and re-purpose the land for other sporting events. Winters are not kind to the Big O, and every year we hear the same thing, "when are they going to knock down this old building ???

Jeremy in Montreal.