The Maritime Plaza Hotel, composed of large painted panels, models, and intimate observational drawings on paper, is an arrangement of moments, a meditation on time and place.
Constructed in 1964, The Maritime Plaza Hotel opened in Montreal’s downtown three years before the city would host one of its defining cultural events – Expo 1967. In 2013, five decades later, and in a state of disrepair, the hotel closed its doors to the public and was scheduled for demolition. A towering 39-story concrete condo was set to replace it. This is where my project began.
In the spring of 2016, I spent time painting from observation inside the hotel. Its mushroom-shaped circular plaza featured arched windows which provided a 360°street-level view of Montreal. The Plaza’s circular and biomorphic motif suggests Buckminster Fuller’s Biosphere, but unlike the pavilions created for Montreal’s Expo, this hotel’s plaza was more of a vernacular gesture, rooted in popular culture. Throughout regional locations in North America in the 1960’s, this type of circular feature was appended to hotels as a way to pull their identities into the future. Some say this type of architecture was even inspired by the futuristic architecture seen in the sixties cartoon, The Jetsons.
My installation is anchored with six large arched window paintings based on the Maritime Plaza’s own arched windows. At 5.5 feet wide by 7.5 feet high they extend beyond the adult human body. Freestanding with the support of wooden braces, the paintings are reminiscent of theatre sets. Each is a porthole, oscillating between inside and outside, public and private, while relaying the transitory space of the hotel. The red curtains on the panels, observed at the Maritime Plaza Hotel, reinforce the back and forth play between public and private.
While I have been working on this project, the hotel was resold and is again under renovation. Today, many similar sites of vernacular modernism are in a state of disrepair. The optimism that they were produced in no longer exists. I do not know what will become of the Maritime Plaza Hotel or other buildings like it. What interests me is the space of transition that they occupy – the meeting of inside/outside, of public and private, of the nostalgic past and utopian dreams of the future.