Wellington Control Tower: the first center dedicated to urbanity

Wellington Control Tower: the first center dedicated to urbanity


  • Social & Cultural


  • project
  • Control Tower
  • Heritage
  • Montreal
  • transformation

Wellington Control Tower: the first center dedicated to urbanity

Published on:
April 4, 2017
Event date:
Tuesday, 4 April, 2017 (All day)

It is presently an old empty railway tower where dust and graffiti accumulate. But the project the City of Montreal has in mind for this 5,000-square-foot wasteland located at 1230 Smith Street in the Quartier de l’innovation (QI) mouth-watering: a space dedicated to urbanity for all, scheduled to open in 2018.

Credit: Projected view "non contractual / definitive" (realized in 2015)

Crédit: Karen Won

Let us take a few steps back. In 2013, the City of Montreal is launched a call for ideas from non-profit cultural organizations with the aim of putting together a requalification project consisting of cultural, occupational and programming facilities for this former CN tower, left vacant for dozens years. In 2014, Ateliers Créatifs Montréal and the Manœuvres collective came up with an unprecedented project to revive this heritage location - part of an international movement to reclaim the city by citizens and artists.

"Yes, a city like Montreal must respond to the challenges of maintaining international attractiveness; but there is also a return to local scale. Citizens are getting increasingly involved in their city in order to transform their neighborhoods, their streets," explains Pauline Butiaux, a development officer. "We dreamed of having a unique place that crystallizes all these desires so that we can to reinvent the city together."

In July 2015 their project is approved. 

The new Tower

Credit: Projected view "non contractual / definitive" (realized in 2015)

In concrete terms, this new space dedicated to urbanity will consist of 5,000 square feet divided on 3 levels:

  • - On the ground floor, there will be a café bistro and a reception area accessible to all. From May to October, an open terrace will also be installed on Smith Promenade.
  • - On the second floor, there will be a collaborative and adjustable workspace, thanks to mobile walls. "We want to break down professional silos and provide a "neutral" meeting and work space for artists, companies, academics, etc."
  • - The third floor will be dedicated to visual art, with exhibitions demonstrating an intersection between art and urbanity. And during periods when there are no exhibitions, this space could be used for conferences, workshops, film screenings, venue rentals, etc.
    - And what about the roof? "We would like one part of the roof to be dedicated to growing vegetables and aromatic plants that could be used by the restaurant.”

Mrs Butiaux tells us nevertheless that the venue’s programming will overflow the walls of the Tower.

"It can be said that there will be a programming inside the walls, on the walls and outside the walls since we also have a mandate to enliven the Smith Promenade and its surroundings. This gives us an additional area in which to act and a territory of expression beyond ​​the tower itself."

A nerve centre

Crédit: Étienne Coutu Sarraz

The Control Tower is in a dream location. An historic building that recalls the origins of the neighborhood, it is located on the edge of the Lachine Canal - a gathering place by the for neighbourhood residents to walk, run or cycle. In behind, there is an old metallic swing bridge that adds character to this charming landscape. And as a bonus, "the Smith Promenade has been redesigned and it’s beautiful. We also like these trains which pass behind the tower and complete the sonic environment.”

Mrs Butiaux confirms that the QI is undergoing great changes and that she and her team do not wish to be a new player working alone in their bubble – quite on the contrary. "We think the more bridges we build between organizations and the different actors, the stronger, the more impactful and the more relevant we are." For her, the QI is a "key player", with a real influence. "The QI is the link between several actors because of its very large network."

Creating synergy before the opening

Three years may seem like long time. To get citizens involved, Mrs Butiaux and her team decided to go out to meet them in order to publicize the project and build it together. Last year, a concrete initiative took place in the form of a three-week event entitled "Giving space to the site", which brought together designers, architects and artists.  During this time, the public was able to witness the construction of a small building right before its eyes. Round tables, mini-projections on the history of the district, a visit to the tower, and other events were a success. "When they are on-site, people are curious. They stop and ask questions and this is where the meeting begins.” A perfect opportunity to talk about the project.

For those who were not there last year, we have good news! The event will be held again this year from June 22 to July 16, but this time under the name “Place à la tour”!

For more information about the project, please contact Pauline Butiaux at : paulinebutiaux [at] gmail.com

Wellington Control Tower: the first center dedicated to urbanity