Abandoned industrial buildings as alternative places of creation: Montreal's underground art galleries - The case of 4000 Saint-Patrick
Urban exploration, urbex, consists of the unauthorized and non-profit visit of abandoned places (hospitals, churches, warehouses, industrial buildings) (Offenstadtla, 2020). This practice includes a series of codes of conduct shared by urban explorers which aims, in particular, to protect the integrity of the places visited and to preserve their relative anonymity. Montreal has a particularly active urbex scene, and icons of the city's architectural heritage are frequently depicted on various sites and social media; this is the case, in particular, of the former Dow Brewery, the Canada Malting, the Incinérateur des Carrières and Silo No. 5. Lesser known, 4000 rue Saint-Patrick, located in the heart of Square Cabot in the Sud-Ouest borough, was once home to the Canadian Power Boat Corporation (CPBC). Housed in the building erected in 1940, the CPBC built small wooden speedboats for Allied troops during World War II before expanding its production to aircraft parts and other types of craft. In 1947, the shipyard gave way to a toy factory, Line Bros Limited, until 1965. In 1995, the federal government recognized its national historic importance and, in 2004, the borough registered it in the list of buildings of exceptional heritage value. Abandoned in 2012 and then threatened with complete demolition, the complex will rather, in the years to come, be partially demolished and upgraded under the name of "Les ateliers Cabot" by the firm Sid Lee Architecture, winner of "Reinventing Montréal" 2020-2021 for this project.
However, between their abandonment in 2012 and the result of the "Reinventing Montreal" competition, the former buildings of the Canadian Power Boat Corporation have witnessed various clandestine artistic expressions. The practice of urbex and the many photographs that resulted from it have made it possible to expose the reappropriation of abandoned industrial buildings in Montreal by artists who replace conventional places of creation, such as workshops, with these abandoned buildings, considered as spaces more free that can be used in creative practices. While the traditional separation between creation and exhibition spaces is called into question (Delassaire, 2018), this communication proposes, based on the study of the building of the Canadian Power Boat Corporation, to question the former industrial building as a place of creation and exhibition of two artistic practices, namely murals and graffiti, and to question the attachment of artists to the industrial memory of the place. How does the distribution of works of art by generally anonymous artists transform the industrial building? Do artistic practices bring, at least momentarily, a new utility to these disused industrial buildings? How could the building conversion project combine its industrial memory and its current artistic use? Finally, this communication proposal suggests questioning the clandestine nature of these artistic practices and their impact on the enhancement of the industrial building, and more particularly on that of 4000 Saint-Patrick.