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Industrial Waters

Industrial waters: the changing social and material landscape of the Lachine Canal

In the Southwest of Montreal flows the beginnings of the Lachine Canal. Acting as the boundary between the burrows of Lachine and Lasalle, its locks also regulate movement between the Saint-Lawrence, Lake Saint-Louis and the canal itself, creating at this point an odd space of intersection and convergence. At the westernmost tip of the canal, municipal and federal parks, museums, a college, a sleepy community, and upcoming townhouses cluster around the waterway, enacting it in multiple legal and material ways — as an historical artifact, a space of leisure, and a natural oasis. Directly to the east, the canal’s old industrial ruins haunt (and contaminate) the grounds of new businesses, like the decade-in-the-making city-sized condo development VillaNova now under construction on the north side of the Saint-Joseph boulevard. Inside the canal itself, early October renovation work has begun and the water has been drained, stranding a dock on land. Soon, construction workers will begin the second stage of Parks Canada’s conservation and reinvigoration plans for the historical heritage site. In our research, we follow the nostalgic attachments, utopian aspirations, and stubborn materials that weave themselves into the shifting waterscape of the Lachine Canal to ask the question: What happens when repurposed water infrastructure, industrial heritage, soil contaminants, layered forms of inhabitation, and overlapping frameworks of ownership and authority converge in the planning, regulation, and development of an urban landscape?