AIRPORTS | YMX :: Aéroport International Montréal-Mirabel International Airport ::: 1975-2004

Photo > Stéphane Danré







The Globe and Mail | Mirabel passenger terminal to be demolished

PHOTO > Mirabel Airport, Montreal Quebec 1976 by CanadaGood, Flickr

I always loved Mirabel’s clean, straightforward design.

I like the long black box look of the thing and the way the interior ceiling slopes around the window perimeters to allow in more light (photo above) whilst increasing the dark-but-light feeling of the whole.

I especially like the aérogare’s graphic standards and wayfinding systems — what a great yellow they used back then!

And then there were the Passenger Transfer Vehicles (PTVs) instead of jetways.

This terminal was designed for minimal walking between curb and jet, an idea stolen from Eero Saarinen’s ground- and breath-taking Dulles International in Washington DC. — another example of “future think” that didn’t quite work out the way it was supposed to. Oh well, neither did this entire fiasco of an airport. I always wanted to fly in or out of Mirabel just to experience those PTVs. Guess I missed my chance.

ABOVE > Mirabel’s PTVs, 1975  BELOW > Dulles’s Mobile Lounges, 1962

Designed by Papineau, Gérin-Lajoie, LeBlanc et Edwards architectes, the Airport of the Future was a larger manifestation of their (minus Edwards and with the addition of Luc Durand) design for expo 67’s Québec Pavilion (next post). Call it auto-plagiarism, but the architects really did look to their own work (or, rather, to Mies’) for inspiration.




Alas, the political climate changed just as Mirabel opened. René came to power in ’76 (Olympic Year) and called for a referendum on the province’s future and two hundred thousand Anglos fled in panic to the safety of T.O. and elsewhere. It would take decades for the city’s population to rebound.

Québec hunkered down for several decades and Montréal — the previous decade’s City of the Future — sunk into a deep malaise. Mirabel never had a chance. Not even the development of the always-promised-never-delivered rapid transit link to Montréal’s downtown could save an airport on the fringes in a city on the decline.

So Mirabel, perhaps Canada’s biggest white elephant, joins the Avro Arrow in the list of great Canadian aeronautical disasters.

Ahead of its time or just a big waste of taxpayer funds? One day Mirabel may be needed — when Montréal’s future catches up to it.

The New York Times | End of Era Near in Montreal for White-Elephant Airport

Graeme Hamilton | Death of Dreams at Mirabel | A Mothballed Mirabel in Autumn > November 2007

The Gazette (Montreal) | Mirabel May Take Off as Theme Park PDF

Google Maps | Mirabel