Square Viger has hosted a number of situated knowers. As a square built solely for “public” leisure in the early 19th-century its intended user was the French-Canadian bourgeoisie who frequented the site. However, through many redevelopments, most recently being Charles Daudelin’s Agora architectural environment in 1983, the space has been inhabited and claimed by a different “public”.
Many homeless communities in Montreal have repurposed Daudelin’s structures as private dwellings and reclaimed them as their own. Among these groups is ‘La Niches des Maîtres’, a group of homeless dog owners who travel and live together with their canine companions.
My intervention relates to the square’s original purpose as one of Montreal’s first parks for “public” leisure and asks the question – which public does this acknowledge? I have imagined what play and leisure might mean for these dogs and how to make visible their ownership of this space.
I brought them a bin of toys and treats, but on the day of my intervention they had moved on. I left the toys with a note indicating their intended recipients and later was pleased to see one of my gifts in the hands and paws of a young homeless girl and her dog.
Such is the life of homeless people – their relationship to space and the built environment is in constant flux though their presence in Montreal cannot be overlooked. Perhaps their own mapping of the city and the spaces they occupy can offer us more insight to possible future redevelopments that acknowledge their existence rather than erasing it.