The Rest

Nov 30, 2012

Protests, corruption and poutine in sans-serif Montreal

Montreal is the place modernism came to die, the last city that really believed in it. It's also a place where social democratic ideas, left behind elsewhere, live on.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


A huge bare modern atrium, tiled in shades of caramel and brown, fake wood panelling and escalators disappearing down tubular, Beaubourg-style shafts, all the signs (“arretez!” “pas ici” “billets“) in a neat sans-serif — when you arrive at Montreal’s Central Station, there’s no mistaking where you are. You’re in 1982.


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23 thoughts on “Protests, corruption and poutine in sans-serif Montreal

  1. Saugoof

    Can’t remember who said it but there’s a quote about Canada that goes “Canada could have had French cuisine, US know-how and British government. Instead they got French government, British know-how and US cuisine”

    That said, I absolutely love Montreal. I can’t even think of a specific reason why but I have never been in any other city that gave me that same instant feeling of “I want to live there” like I got the first time I went to Montreal. Even if the food is diabolical and the winters make Moscow look tropical.

  2. Nici

    God, I miss the future.

  3. Matt Hardin

    Great piece, any chance Crikey could move it to a sans serif font?

  4. Coaltopia

    Brilliant piece. I’m now going to find places to slip-in “righteous nihilism” here and there.

  5. Mr Tank

    Saugoof, I’m gonna repeat your quote over and over until I remember it. Watch out Canucks I’ve finally got a decent line about Canada to throw at you! Thanks Mate.

  6. archibald

    Interesting stuff Guy – not least on the college fees stuff. That idea, that university education does not merely benefit the direct recipient, seems to be one which is rarely articulated these days and yet it was the basis on which so much of the system was constructed. I had the misfortune to hear the current occupant of the chair ABC RN’s Counterpoint spouting the now conventional user pays line – as if there were no other conception of education but private gain.

  7. michael r james

    Nice piece, and it is going to induce wistful musings for at least the rest of my day. (And maybe tonight watch my DVD of The Score, in which heist-supremo de Niro runs a jazz club, and lives in a to-die-for apartment in Old Montreal.) Like Saugoof at 1:24 pm, I have had the occasional desire to live there. And as a once-Parisian I promise not to make fun of Montrealers. It must be quite nice in late autumn, before the snow piles 2 m high on the sidewalks. (FYI, it is 32 degrees on east coast Australia today–Brisbane & Sydney, god knows probably 42 in Melbourne.)

    Incidentally I reckon it is a bit unfair to pick on Montreal’s airport (or whatever) as a 70s relic because such things are littered all over north America: JFK, Dulles, LAX. Not to mention Paris’ CDG-T1 and its CBD of La Defense. (All of these are the 70s by way of the 50s imagination.)

    Montrealeans: the correct demonym is Montrealers.
    1.5 million population: greater Metro area is 3.8 million, it is in fact a very large city, 2nd largest French city in the world.

  8. paddy

    Guy Rundle and the fonts.
    What a lovely rare, rich meal that was.

  9. Guy Rundle


    no, its montrealeans. i broke habit of a lifetime and looked it up.

    it was the train station, not the airport. article context makes that clear

    yes, greater area has that population. but the greater is very very great indeed

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