Restoration and Reinauguration of the Guimard entrance - Matt McLauchlin
Matt McLauchlin

Square Victoria station's Hector Guimard metro entrance (for more on his work, click here), made around 1900, was given to the Montreal metro by the Régie autonome des transports parisiens (RATP) in 1966 to commemorate the cooperation of French and Canadian engineers in the construction of the Montreal metro. It was installed on the Saint-Antoine entrance of Square-Victoria station in 1967 (the hundredth anniversary of Guimard's birth).

View of the Guimard entrance before its restoration View of the Guimard entrance before its restoration

When the entrance was installed, however, building codes required a wider exit for the station than the entrance could fit on. The Guimard entrances are modular, so the main part of the entrance could be installed, but the characteristic "MÉTROPOLITAIN" sign and its holder could not fit over the wide entrance.

Furthermore, over the years the entrance suffered progressive damage through vandalism and exposure, of which the worst was the theft of one of the shield designs from the base of the entrance.

The future of the entrance was in doubt; those in charge even contemplated removing it. However, at this time the Quartier International de Montréal (QIM) redevelopment project had started in the district, and square Victoria was to be one of its focal points. Plans for the entrance's restoration and integration into the redesigned square followed, and the STM, RATP, and QIM worked together to restore this important architectural monument.

The entrance was carefuly disassembled on 17 October 2001. While in storage, it underwent a thorough restoration in consultation with experts from the STM and RATP. The work was carried out by the Dolléans firm of Montreal, who had also worked on the statue of Jacques Cartier now at Place-Saint-Henri station, and on Jean-Paul Riopelle's sculptural group La Joute during its reinstallation elsewhere in the Quartier International.

During this time, discussions with the relevant authorities ended in a special exception to the building code to allow the entrance to be narrowed, and so it was.

View of the Guimard entrance under reassembly, December 2002
December 2002
View of the Guimard entrance under reassembly, July 2003
July 2003
The entrance was reinstalled in the park from 11-22 November 2002 once the narrowing of the entrance was complete; it then underwent several more months of restoration in situ. In addition to the MÉTROPOLITAIN sign and map-holder being added to the entrance, its surface was refinished and a number of missing parts replaced. The former concrete base on which the entrance had sat was replaced with a more authentic stone base. Also, the interior of the stairwell was clad in the Paris metro's characteristic white bevelled tiles. They were specially provided by the RATP, as were a specially-made art nouveau-style nameplate for the station, as well as an interpretive plaque such as those it had recently installed at the Guimard entrances and other important heritage features in the metro back in Paris.

Although the entrance is still the only authentic Guimard on a metro station outside Paris, it should be noted that several elements, such as the map-holder and MÉTROPOLITAIN sign and holder are new, albeit made from the original molds.

View of the Guimard entrance just before its reinauguration, September 2003
September 2003
(just before its reinauguration)
Interpretive plaque

On September 4, 2003, the restored Guimard entrance was reinaugurated in grand style, including a belle époque-style organ grinder and accordionist and even an appearance by Hector Guimard himself... or the next best thing! Mme Anne-Marie Idrac, CEO of the RATP, was on hand to cut the ribbon; Claude Dauphin, chairman of the board of the STM, Jean-Claude Cyr, chairman of the board of the QIM, and Christian Berlinet, French consul-general, were also present.

At the reception following the inauguration, an interesting discovery was revealed. During the restoration, it was discovered that the Montreal Guimard still had its original glass lamp globes - the only ones left in the world, since Paris had already replaced all its globes with plastic ones! Montreal's, too, are now replaced with polycarbonate ones for safety reasons. One of the precious glass globes was returned to the RATP in gratitude for their help with the restoration; another one was given to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, along with one of the original "shields" from the base of the entrance.

† By coincidence, there is a metro station in Paris called Quatre Septembre!

View of the Guimard entrance at its reinauguration, 4 September 2003
Inauguration of the entrance, 4 September 2003
Presentation of lamp globe to Mme Idrac
Presentation of an original Guimard glass lamp globe to Mme Anne-Marie Idrac, CEO of the RATP, by Claude Dauphin, chairman of the board of the STM

Currently under discussion is whether Montreal will follow in the footsteps of Lisbon and Mexico City - both of which have been given replica Guimard entrances - and offer a work of art to the Paris metro in exchange. It is probable that we will, but it remains to be seen what form that will take.

(all of the below are in .pdf format and in French)

  • Info STM: l'entourage Guimard bientôt de retour ! (11 Nov 2002)
  • Info STM: Entourage Guimard de la station Square-Victoria - Mission accomplie ! (19 Dec 2002)
  • Les artistes du métro de Montréal - Ces oeuvres venues d’ailleurs (12 Aug 2003)
  • Restauration de l’entourage Guimard de la station de métro Square-Victoria - Une oeuvre audacieuse renaît (5 Sep 2003)
  • Return to the history page

    Image guimard-before1.jpg courtesy STM archives.