Place d'Youville

Montréal, Québec 

Photo Credit: Claude Cormier


Initial Research by: Desiree Theriault

Edited by: Samantha Miller & Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2017


Project: Place d'Youville

Type of Urban Strategy: Smart Cities 

Type of ProjectStreetScape / Plaza

LocationMontréal, Québec 

Date Designed/Planned: 1997

Construction Completed:  2008

Designer: Claude Cormier + Associés, Groupe Cardinal Hardy


The Groupe Cardinal Hardy and Claude Cormier Associates look to break the mould and serve on a movement of simplicity, solidity and respond to the immediate context. The movement of the pedestrians, the materials, the steps of the visitors who scramble throughout the city – these are the building blocks for their design of Place d’Youville in Montréal.


Place D’Youville designed by Claude Cormier + Associates, and Groupe Cardinal Hardy is located in Old Montréal, the historical square of Montréal where the roads of Place Royale and McGill Street meet. It is one of the most significant public open space in Montréal's bustling downtown. Historically the site has been known as the Town Square -harbouring many different landowners and identities. The Old Montréal General Hospital previously owned the site from 1692 to 1747, which was run by Marguerite d’Youville who provided hospital services to the poor. (Vieux Montreal, 2017)

In 1833, the site became the Marché Sainte-Anne creating a fresh local market for the town's villagers. In later years, the site transformed into many different significant historical spaces creating a rich and diverse location central to Old Montréal. (Vieux Montreal, 2017)

The re-development of Place D’Youville utilized these layers of historical and archaeological past to create a dynamic dialogue of the area’s history. Place d’Youville has become one of the most notable public squares in Montréal, strategizing a new gateway to the city’s waterfront, old port, downtown and more significantly – it’s history. (Claude Cormier, 2013)


Place d’Youville is in the Island of Montréal's southern section, adjacent to the Vieux-Port, and is one of Old Montréal's most popular recreational and tourist areas, attracting both Montréalers and sightseers every year. Despite the influx of visitors, the square remains tranquil amidst several warehouses lining the central corridor, recently converted into housing units. This corridor stretches north-south along McGill Street, starting from the so-called “Place Royale.”

(Morisset, 2000)

The square is also home to a series of tall buildings dating back to the early twentieth century – head offices of significant railway companies which bear witness to Montréal's economic prosperity during that period and a timeline of historical buildings. At the opposite end of the square sits the grand prize winning Musée d’archeologie et d’histore de Pointe-II-Calliere, one of Montréal's notable museums. Lastly, the area’s center features former warehouses on one side and a complex owned by the Sisters of Charity for over 200 years on the other. (Morisset, 2000)

In its entirety, Place d’Youville responds to its surroundings – the rich web of history, its fragmented timeline, the atmospheric culture and the societies of the past. The redevelopment provides Place d’Youville with a sense of identity and charisma that enchants and unifies the past and present. (Morisset, 2000)


Throughout history, Place d’Youville has been a beacon of socio-cultural resonance – providing the City of Montréal with a patchwork quilt of its past. In fact, estimations say that the location of the square came close to where some of the first European settlers inhabited Montréal. The large square has shifted and transformed throughout the centuries from an old stream to a Large Hospital, to gardens and pathways, Markets and even the Parliament – creating a rich site filled with a historical web of the past.

(Heritage Montreal, 2017)

During the early 1900s, the site took on the name of Place d’Youville and began its use as a public area and parking lot. Paving over the scars and demolition of the history – Place d’Youville lacked an identity and had foregone its transformative capabilities that attracted people in the past. In the mid-1990s, the City of Montréal commissioned the Groupe Cardinal-Hardy and the Claude Cormier Architecture Paysagiste Inc to revitalize the public space. The scope of the project involved bringing legibility to the space and providing Montréal with a dynamic, culturally rich, and atmospheric town square (Heritage Montreal, 2017.) Their first step involved welding links with the history of the site, computing layers of archaeologically inspired data that would provide visitors with a new sense of the site's significance. The result was a harmonious quilt of ‘pedestrian walkways’ (Claude Cormier, 2008) that recreates the site’s historical movements from the past 500 years – bringing a new sense of identity to Place d’Youville and establishing a gateway with the area’s history.

(Claude Cormier, 2008)


The goal of Place d’Youville is to take a critical historically significant square and utilize it as a tool for discovering all of Montréal. The square becomes a gateway to valuable destinations providing a new networking system throughout the city. In addition, to creating a strong visual history of the city, the square offers the city with recreational activities, pedestrian security, residential tranquillity, and access and development of cultural events.

Place d’Youville becomes the space to enhance Old Montréal Historical significance and re-establishes the link with the past and reference point for the surrounding destinations.

(Claude Cormier, 2008)


The designers established several planning principles intended to protect the historical past and the site’s archeological significance. The project was developed in two phases, starting from 1997 to 2008 (Claude Cormier, 2008). The first phase of the project began between 1997 and 2002, where Claude Cormier Associates and Groupe Cardinal Hardy looked to create a square that responded to the site’s archeological significance and created a dialogue with the area’s history. The importance of displaying this choreography of history was featured in the material and construction techniques of the sidewalks– the sidewalks recreated a web of the 500-year history of sidewalk construction in the city (Claude Cormier, 2008). Utilizing wood, concrete, granite, and limestone to enhance the historical layers of the sidewalks.

Additionally, the sidewalks would act as gateways towards essential access points of the city – leading visitors to the city museum, offices, restaurants, and residences of Old Montréal. Lastly, to ground the quilted blanket of history, the designers chose to create a central path that tracks the route of an ancient stream, giving centrality to the project. (Claude Cormier, 2008)

In the second phase of development from 2006 to 2008, Place d’Youville kept up its manifestation as a web of archeologically inspired data. The second phase involved bringing the site’s history as Canada’s parliament from 1844 to 1849 when a riotous mob torched it (Morisset, 2000). Bringing out this significant historical event that occurred on the square was essential to designers Claude Cormier Architecture Paysagiste Inc. and Groupe Cardinal Hardy. The second phase involved scorching earth and using black materials to mark the foundation of the old parliament buildings (Claude Cormier, 2008). This phase also allowed for the square to become a dynamic public square that opened up towards the Old Port – becoming a new nodal point for the City of Montréal.


The urban design firms of Claude Cormier Architects Payasagiste and Groupe Cardinal Hardy played a critical role in unveiling the City of Montréal's archeological history, and it’s fertile soil. Place d’Youville allowed for Claude Cormier and Groupe Cardinal Hardy to mitigate the dynamics of a bustling city and create a platform for the rich historical culture of the city to strive. The project seeks to explore the possibilities within the urban landscape and provide a new network to engage the city of Montréal into a space that allows visitors to discover Montréal both historically and physically.

(Lan, 2015)


Lan. "How Place d’Youville is Teaching us That Artificial is Not Fake! · Landscape Architects Network." Landscape Architects Network. 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 23 Jun. 2017. N.a. "Place d’Youville | Association des architectes paysagistes du Québec." n.d. Web. 23 Jun. 2017. Claude Cormier. "Place d’Youville." n.d. Web. 23 Jun. 2017. Heritage Montreal. "Place d’Youville’s Hidden Secret | SDC Vieux-Montréal." n.d. Web. 23 Jun. 2017. N.a. "Place d’Youville | Association des architectes paysagistes du Québec." n.d. Web. 5 Jul. 2017. N.a. "Vieux-Montréal – Fiche d'un espace public : Place D'Youville." n.d. Web. 23 Jun. 2017. Lucie K. Morisset "Of History and Memory: an Allegory fo Identity in the Redevelopment of Place d’Youville" 11 Mar. 2016. Web. 23 Jun. 2017.


This project is significant in several ways. It broke new ground in environmental planning, showing developers that environmental sensitivity can be economically successful. It provided a model for other environmental designers and planners to follow for site planning and community design. It also marked a historic collaboration between some of the most modern architects and landscape architects. Place d’Youville is a unique project that captures the dynamic history of Montréal in an elegant web of data.

(Lan, 2015)


Place d’Youville looks to respond to the restoration of one of the essential squares in Old Montréal. The historical site has been deteriorating over the past few years changing identities for many decades. Defining and restoring the space is a challenge that requires designers to take care of the context and history of the site. Claude Cormier and Groupe Cardinal Hardy looked to extract the structural memory, as sketched by previously identified historical inputs, involved recycling history as a design material. The process of the response looked to pay homage to the memory specific to each historical element, thereby incorporating the site’s morphological interpretation. The square becomes a representation of the past, and the memorial design is dynamic: an acknowledgment of history’s role in shaping the future and “enriching” the soil.

(Morisset, 2000)


The project responds to the need for a dynamic square in the historical site of Old Montréal. They are providing a gateway to the past and to the links that surround it. The creation of Place d’Youville compiles these collections of its historical past as a General Hospital, Market Square, and Provincial Parliament. These identities become layers of history that form a vast web of information that blankets the square. (Claude Cormier, 2008) The matrix designs allow for visitors to explore the quilt of historical pedestrian pathways, all while engaging in a choreography of movement that arranges visitors towards significant Montréal destinations.

(Morisset, 2000)


The design of Place d’Youville allows it to function with minimal management and maintenance. The site contains materials and vegetation that requires little to no management - creating a space that is dynamic and has potential for different uses all year round. Greenery and public artifacts line the square creating a dynamic public space. These are maintained and managed throughout the year by the City of Montréal.

(City of Montreal, 2008)


The funding for the redevelopment of Place d’Youvile came from the City of Montréal, Québec's Ministry of Culture and Communications, and the Government of Québec. The total cost of the project was $3.2 million. (AAPQ, 2003)


Place d’Youville is a dynamic public square in the south side of Old Montréal. It provides the city with a central node that creates access points throughout the city – creating a pedestrian-friendly environment that entices users.

The project captivates with a web of sidewalks that include a multitude of benches, abundant greenery, and soft lighting. All while allowing visitors to understand more about the rich history of Montréal and the significance of the site.

(Morisset, 2000)