Exhibition: Greystone: Tools for Understanding the City
12th October 2017 - 4th March 2018, Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), Montréal, Canada
DATE: 4/3/2018
"The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) presents Greystone: Tools for Understanding the City, an exhibition curated by Phyllis Lambert that reveals her deep attachment to Greystone buildings. This interest gave rise to a vast research project initiated more than forty years ago. It is an in-depth study of the history of these buildings from the 17th to the beginning of the 20th centuries, through the Greystone photographic series. It reveals the influence of geology, topography, politics, culture, and ethnicity in shaping the city over time.

Conceived as a photographic mission conducted by Phyllis Lambert and Richard Pare through the Montreal neighborhoods from 1973 to 1974, the Greystone photographic series reveals the relationship between city growth, architectural expression, and individuals. Phyllis Lambert explains that this mission, a research approach focused on the visual, became "a catalyst for increased concerns about the conservation of the city´s heritage. Greystone buildings create a unifying sense across the island of Montreal." Greystone evokes the scope and demanding aspects of the project: "Early in the morning we trudged through the snow, photographing the neighbourhoods presented in this exhibition: Old Montreal and the original faubourgs directly north of it, as well as other faubourgs and suburban towns on the island of Montreal, as mapped in 1890."

Among the possible ways of analyzing city fabric, the focus on a single material of construction provides insight into a wide range of topics. Originally functional, Montreal grey limestone buildings, distinct from those built with other materials, came to hold special symbolic value. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, thick stone walls provided protection against attack, fire, and the cold. During the 19th century, Greystone buildings developed from a pragmatic to a symbolic role through successive, layered material transformations, reflecting the changes in politics, trade, cultural identity, society, and human ambition. "This approach would be less productive in cities like Paris or Jerusalem, for example, where all buildings are faced with local stone. However, in Montreal, the North American city with the greatest amount and concentration of stone construction, such focus is revelatory." underlines Phyllis Lambert."

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