Montreal Olympics 1976: Architectural Review

Published:

Montreal Olympics 1976: Architectural Review

The Olympic Games have become a monumental opportunity for a nation to demonstrate its individuality through architectural design. To most, we see hosting the Olympics as a positive possibility, a chance for a city to develop its infrastructure, renovate buildings and create significant architecture. These elements being the motivation behind all the planning and organizing that is involved with creating a successful game, much of which influences the perception of the project. Yet hosting the Olympic Games has a dramatic impact on the society of a city and often goes far beyond a city’s expectation in both civic energy and cost. It is difficult to say if any city has been prepared to take on the vast amount of organizing that is involved with this event. The difficulties Montreal faced in the planning and executing if the 1976 Olympics are those often faced by other cities in this position. Yet with such an intense effect why do cities continue to bid for the Olympics? Could it be the legacy they create and the legend left behind in the architecture or the opportunity to design something innovative and unique the world has never seen? Montreal faced this dilemma in their creation of the 1976 games, a design that will be recalled throughout history as striking and outrageous but also as a prime example of how overzealous and intense the process of is hosting the Olympics.

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

Professional

Essay Writers

Lady Using Tablet

Get your grade
or your money back

using our Essay Writing Service!

Essay Writing Service

The Olympics games are said to be an honor to any city that hosts them. Months-sometimes-years go into planning the bid for the International Olympics Committee, in hopes of persuading members to vote for a city. But there are many circumstances that contribute to the formation of the Olympic Games, one being the nature in which a city is selected. Although the IOC often says politics are not involved there are underlining reasons in the decision making process.[1] In the selection for the 1976 Olympic city, politics were everything. During this time a distinct line had been drawn between the U.S.S.R and the United States dividing countries on and, creating the cold war atmosphere.[2] In such a sensitive context, cities like Los Angeles and Moscow were troublesome locations. Although both were in the running for the event, IOC members were trying to avoid having the Olympics and their participants choose a side. If either nation’s city was selected, the other vowed to boycott the games. Another event that loomed over the decision process was the traumatizing events of the 1972 Munich Olympics. The hostage crisis there resulted in the deaths of Israeli athletes was still a lingering detriment influencing much of the world’s fate in the IOC.[3] Much of the public question if the event should continue and were concerned about about such a large scale and diverse event. This accounted for much of the pressure and scrutiny the host city would face after being awarded the bid.

The choice of Montreal as the host city seemed to be the most neutral in terms of the cold war situation. [4]Canada was impartial to either superpower country during this time and would provide the most passive environment for these tension filled times. There was also the promise from Montreal to keep the games modest and self-financed, a method that had never been endeavored by any previous host city. [5]This was an influential lure to IOC in hopes of avoiding a lavished event where attention is at an all-time high, creating less publicity for an attack. Although in the end, Montreal will fail at both tactics, it was a novelty that would possibly change the rising pessimism of the games and its cost. [6]Previous city organizations had worked from a financial base; either being government supported or publicly, the organizers were at least spared another task amidst all the other concerns. The Montreal Olympic Organization Committee (COJO) faced the dilemma of creating money to even begin the project. Commemoration coins, stamps and a lottery was created to support the games, but due to political pressure the process did not begin till 2 years after the bid was receive, costing the organization precious planning time. With little money the city was determined to utilize as many of their existing sports facilities for Olympic activity. There were also a number of projects in the process of going to construction that could be modified for Olympic use, but overall it was decided that a large facility would have to be built for the main stadium and to host the opening ceremony. [7]

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

Comprehensive

Writing Services

Lady Using Tablet

Plagiarism-free
Always on Time

Marked to Standard

Order Now

Now that the decision had been made to build the main stadium for the Olympic complex, the COJO would now have to locate it in the old city of Montreal. Due to Montreal’s rich history the city was built around much of its historical significance creating a congested urban core and limited infrastructure. The COJO looked toward much of the original urban design for guidance. One particular example stood out, a bid for the 1956 Olympics, a design located on Maisonneuve Park. [8] Back in 1912, the urban plan for Montreal had dedicated this land for public recreation use and due to the quantity it made it the most efficient location for the Olympics. Maisonneuve Park, an area northeast of downtown Montreal, is primarily residential with a vast amount of surrounding green and park space. But this location created many difficulties for the project, one of them being its distance from downtown. The infrastructure for both public transportation and car access would have to be developed, as well as additional opportunities of tourism in order to sustain the future of the Olympic complex. So in addition to the main stadium, the velodrome and other Olympic related activities would find a permanent home on this site. [9]

Clake & Rapuano Landscape Architects. Layout for the Olympic Facility in 1956. http://www.ameriquefrancaise.org/en/article-558/The_Montreal_Olympic_Stadium_Complex.html

Selecting the designer was a critical part of the planning for the Montreal Olympics. Jean Drapeau, mayor of Montreal at the time, selected architect Robert Taillibert as lead designer of the Olympic park.[10] A decision that was not agreed upon by all parties involved. To Drapeau, Taillibert was seen as an inspiration; due to his work in Paris on Parc des Princes another stadium complex. Its notable form blends well with the urban fabricate of this city while being an influence in modern architecture by using prefabricated concrete. This selection of Taillibert received much public criticism as well. Many local Montreal architects and designer felt they were not given the opportunity to participate in the design of their own stadium.[11] A prospect that would have illuminated the Montreal cultural and eliminate additional cost for overseas transference. But Drapeau was insisted on Taillibert to create something unique and modern for the city of Montreal. He embarked on a mission to provide the city with something as symbolic as the Eiffel tower.[12] His concept was to replicate the nature of the vertebrate by creating this monumental expression of organic architecture to describe the momentum of the Olympic Games. [13]

Organic architecture is said to be the blend of the natural landscape and the built environment. This harmonious unison of material and structure that both sculpts the human environment while emphasis the nature of the landscape. [14] This term “organic architecture” was often found in the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, as a way of conceptualizing design with site.[15] But it is difficult to say whether the Montreal stadium is truly meant to be organic architecture. [16]There are a number of fundamental values in organic architecture that are not prevalent in the Montreal park design. For instances the pool and tower complex maybe integrated in one sweeping unit, but the velodrome seems to be an element on its own. The cohesion between the elements does not regard the landscape except to mold it to fit the functionality of the Olympics.

Olympic Official Report Montreal, “Facilities”, Volume 2. Model of the Olympic Park. July 17, 1974.

Nature and sustainability are also very important principles employed in organic architecture, concepts that are not strongly emphasized by Taillibert in Montreal. Much of the Olympic park site is concrete and is not sympathetic to the environment around it. The concrete plaza also stresses its unsustainable nature when vacant. Resourcefulness is often used to in describing organic elements of architecture, whether in use of materials or the landscape, it combines what already exists with what needs to be created. Pre-cast concrete was the fundamental material used in the construction of Montreal, a process unfamiliar to many local contractors of Montreal making it an inconvenient method. Taillibert focus was not to be sustainable with his design or emphasis green development but instead create a fluid expression through form. [17] His intentions through the design was not to be organic in the sense of Frank Lloyd Wright but possible consider the building as an organism with his concept of the vertebrate being notable in the structure. [18]An idea that could be applied to the design is that the Olympic structure grew from the site and formed by reacting to the elements and functionality implemented to it. The control held by Taillibert was of organic architecture in the nature of not being bound to any shape or form. His resistance to allowing the structure to be tamed by the site or disposition of the project is a unique dominating factor found in this Olympic complex.

Lady using a tablet
Lady using a tablet

This Essay is

a Student's Work

Lady Using Tablet

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Examples of our work

There is a psychological natural we as humans seem to create with the built environment. We tend to understand elements better when we can justify their actions and relate to forms that symbolize meaning and purpose in the environment. Buildings that illustrate objects or motions enlighten the experience while creating functionality within our imagination. This type of analyzing can be applied to some aspects of the Montreal Olympic park. For instances the design of the main stadium resembles an elliptical shell, an object that can be visualized by many visitors. The tower itself is difficult to comprehend, there seems to be no purpose of functionality, except to defy the site’s landscape and exhume the organic nature of the architecture. To Tallibert the purpose of the tower was to allow the concept of the retractable roof be obtained, a functionality that proved to be more complex than originally planned, due to the structural complications.[19] There is no resemblance to relate it too in the action of removing the roof, which could be a reason for its failure. Architects often design structures based off elements found in the natural environment. With such a desire to be of this organic nature of the site, it seems difficult to understand why the architecture became so separated. The three distinct forms of the site all represent different functions but yet they were built to serve a complete focus, the Olympic Park. There is neither architectural element nor form that symbolizes their relationship to one another. They seem lost and disconnected in this concrete landscape. Besides the physical connection between the tower and the main stadium, the combining forms feel desperate to meet due to the towers literal purpose of holding the roof up. Taillibert, an expert in pre-stressed concrete, wanted to express the limitless form of the material through the shape’s complexity.

Alain Desjean. Olympic park from above. http://identitydesigned.com/montreal-olympic-park/

The tower of the Montreal Park creates “totalitarian” architecture. Design methods found in the Munich Olympics of 1972. Totalitarian is said to be the construction of large buildings to give the essences of power and control. [20] Even when experiencing the stadium there is the sensation of being overwhelmed by its sheer size. Its enclosed walls created the sense of being confined, while the opening for the roof reveals very little of the outdoor atmosphere. From a distance the tower is a spectacle, inclining at such an intense degree, but when near the site the components of the complex are relived creating a mismatching array of architectural elements. There was also this imbalance of structure and symmetry in the plan of site as well as the elevations. A disproportion that arose an un-comfortablity in visitors looking for a pattern or understand to the design. An idea referred to as “oblique function” in which architecture encourages disequilibrium to create movement. A technique used by French designers, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio in the 1960s. [21]Such a principle is seen in the justification of the inclining tower compared to the rest of the site.

Montreal Olympic Stadium. http://www.impactmontreal.com/en/news/2012/02/ticket-sales-rise-32000-home-opener-against-chicago-fire

The architecture of the Montreal Olympic facility is often viewed with negative connotation due to the alaruming cost and management failures. Much of blame is on the exuberant spending on Jean Drapeau part as well as the inexperience COJO had with a project of this magnitude. [22]The dilemmas involved with the process of construction made it difficult for many of the locals to justify the cost. Because of its unique design and misleading relationships between the city and the architecture, many turned the momentum after the games against the planning committee.[23] But Montreal isn’t the only Olympic city to face such difficulties in hosting the games. Athens faced much public criticism for their Olympic structures in the 2004 Olympics, due to their extraordinary cost and uncorrelated design, the Olympic park is a deserted environment with little hopes of being rejuvenated in the next few years. [24]Athens and Montreal share main similarities in the organization of their Olympic parks, one being the disconnected from the rest of their cities. Instead of blending into their cities urban environment, the planning committees designated a whole new area designated just for the games. There is no integration with the complex’s making it difficult to activate such sprawled. The location is one of the main attributes to the desolate Olympic site. It is difficult to develop tourism when there are so few facilities that promote visitor-attraction. The neighbors of the Olympic park are primarily residential townhouses and buildings, dramatized the scale between the soaring tower and the low rise housing. The tower stands at 550’, the 6th tallest building in Montreal, emphasizing the vast bareness surrounding it. Although the view from the tower above Montreal is said to be magnificent, the view of the tower from below seems lost and out of place amongst the trees. The relationship between the Olympic structures and the site feels missing, as if sculpting a concrete plaza gives it grounds to exist. This opportunity was missed by Taillibert by his decision to design the buildings in Paris instead of absorbing himself in the Montreal culture. [25]

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/Montreal_-_Olympic_Park_panorama.jpg

Paolo Costa Baldi. September 2011. Panoramic view of the Olympic Park.

Since the first modern Olympic game, each host city has faced its share of problems and pessimism. The very importance of the games make them a distinct target for public criticism and design ridicule. The Montreal Olympic architecture demonstrates how design is molded by the many components of pressure a city is faced with when hosting the games. Society has turned architecture into its own category of competition. These expectations create difficulties in sustaining the project and eventually lead to unfulfilled possibilities. These combined elements of expensive design, political involvement and unsustainable architectural development, demonstrated the difficult task involved with planning for the Olympic Games. Montreal may not be remember for organizing the most financially successful Olympics, but the host did accomplish one purpose of the games and that is creating a memorable spectacle. The event conveyed by Montreal is often perceived as a lesson to future host cities on what not to do in the planning process but there were many positive impacts left from the 1976 Olympics. The bold design of the Montreal Olympic park is a consistent reminded what can be accomplished through modern technologies and pioneering design. Not only did Taillibert succeed in innovating techniques while building the Montreal Olympic Park, but was successful in meeting his objective of designing, creating and completing a sports complex that could truly be described as a “work of art.”

Work Cited

Auf der Maur, N., “The billion-dollar game: Jean Drapeau and the 1976 Olympics” (1976)

Bray, Patrick M., “Aesthetics in the Shadow of No Towers: Reading Virilio in the Twenty-First Century,” (2008): 6

Bassil, Soraya, “The Origins and Evolution of Tallibert’s Architectural Style”

Bassil, Soraya and Dion, Amélie. “The Montreal Olympic Stadium Complex”. Encyclopedia of French Culture Heritage in North America.

Experts slam the Olympic structures of Montreal (1976), Civil Engineering, Dec., 46(12), 50–54.

Fotheringham, A., “The woes of the Olympics began in Montreal” (1999), Macleans, 112(6), 76.

Kay, Jonathan, “The majestic, awe-inspiring, faintly totalitarian absurdity of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium”, National Post (2012)

Keller, Sean. Preview of “Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the Modern 21st Century,” Artform (2011): 97

Kidd, Bruce, "The Culture Wars of the Montreal Olympics," Sport in Society 16.4 (2013): 151-64.

Hamilton, Graeme, "What Does the Future Hold for Montreal’s Fallen OlympicStadium?" , National Post (2011)

Howell, P. C., The Montreal Olympics: An insider’s view of organizing a self-financing games, (2009)

Olympic Official Report Montreal, “Organization”, Volume 1, (1978)

Olympic Official Report Montreal, “Facilities”, Volume 2, (1978)

Patel, A., Bosela, P., and Delatte, N.,”1976 Montreal Olympics: Case Study of Project Management Failure,” J. Perform. Constr. Facil., 27(3) (2013): 362–369

Remillard, Francois, Montreal Architecture: A Guide to Style and Buildings (1990)

Toy, Maggie, “Organic Architecture”, Architecture Design, Vol. 63 No 11/12 (1993): 7


[1] Howell, P. C., The Montreal Olympics: An insider’s view of organizing a self-financing games, (2009)

[2]US History.com, The Cold War: A Brief Synopsis, (2012)

[3] Olympic Official Report Montreal, “Organization”, Volume 1, (1978)

[4] Howell, P. C., The Montreal Olympics: An insider’s view of organizing a self-financing games, (2009)

[5] Fotheringham, A., “The woes of the Olympics began in Montreal” (1999), page 2

[6] Patel, A., Bosela, P., and Delatte, N.,”1976 Montreal Olympics: Case Study of Project Management Failure,” J. Perform. Constr. Facil., 27(3) (2013): 362–36

[7] Olympic Official Report Montreal, “Organization”, Volume 1, (1978)

[8] Bassil, Soraya and Dion, Amélie. “The Montreal Olympic Stadium Complex”

[9] Olympic Official Report Montreal, “Facilities”, Volume 2, (1978)

[10] Patel, A., Bosela, P., and Delatte, N.,”1976 Montreal Olympics: Case Study of Project Management Failure,” J. Perform. Constr. Facil., 27(3) (2013): 362–36

[11] Patel, A., Bosela, P., and Delatte, N.,”1976 Montreal Olympics: Case Study of Project Management Failure,” J. Perform. Constr. Facil., 27(3) (2013): 362–36

[12] Fotheringham, A., “The woes of the Olympics began in Montreal” (1999), page 2

[13] Olympic Official Report Montreal, “Facilities”, Volume 2, (1978)

[14] Toy, Maggie, “Organic Architecture”, Architecture Design, Vol. 63 No 11/12 (1993): 7

[15] Keller, Sean. Preview of “Frank Lloyd Wright: Organic Architecture for the Modern 21st Century,” Artform (2011): 97

[16] Remillard, Francois, Montreal Architecture: A Guide to Style and Buildings (1990)

[17] Organic Architecture, Architecture Design, Vol 63 No 11/12 November – December 1993

[18] Remillard, Francois, Montreal Architecture: A Guide to Style and Buildings (1990)

[19] Patel, A., Bosela, P., and Delatte, N.,”1976 Montreal Olympics: Case Study of Project Management Failure,” J. Perform. Constr. Facil., 27(3) (2013): 362–36

[20] Remillard, Francois, Montreal Architecture: A Guide to Style and Buildings (1990)

[21] Bray, Patrick M., “Aesthetics in the Shadow of No Towers: Reading Virilio in the Twenty-First Century,” (2008): 6

[22]Experts slam the Olympic structures of Montreal (1976), Civil Engineering, Dec., 46(12), 50–54

[23] Howell, P. C., The Montreal Olympics: An insider’s view of organizing a self-financing games, (2009)

[24] Fotheringham, A., The woes of the Olympics began in Montreal” (1999), Macleans, 112(6), 76.

[25] Patel, A., Bosela, P., and Delatte, N.,”1976 Montreal Olympics: Case Study of Project Management Failure,” J. Perform. Constr. Facil., 27(3) (2013): 362–36