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Early one Sunday morning in May of 2005, I set out from my apartment in Montreal and headed towards what was soon to become a major construction site just north of the city's downtown core. The Pine-Park interchange, a crumbling, concrete, multi-tiered labyrinth of traffic was going to be demolished and replaced with a more conventional intersection.
The interchange, completed in the early 1960s, was soon to be (if not already) a safety hazard, and pretty much everyone agreed it was a big ugly chunk of concrete we could live without. As a bonus, the plans that had been presented for the new intersection looked like such a breath of fresh air that most people were quite positive about the whole undertaking, which is saying quite a bit when you consider that a major hub in and out of the downtown core was about to become daily taffic hell for two full years.
As inconvenient as it promised to be, I don't think I spoke with a single person who opposed the project. The predominant feeling in the city was that a broken, antiquated, urban eyesore was going to be replaced with something more befitting a modern city.
I was as happy as anyone else to see the construction get under way and completed, but I went out that morning because I knew something was going to be lost in the process. Over the years, graffiti artists had covered parts of the interchange with a diverse collection of characters. I don't know any of the people who did the work, how many artists made contributions, when or over how much time they were done, but I always liked catching glimpses of them out the window of the 80 and 144 buses that travelled through the maze.
The most well known was surely the red and white "Specters" mural that you would see when travelling north up Park Avenue as you left downtown — they were kind of the southern gatekeepers of the interchange. It was popular enough that a grassroots movement formed to try and save it from demolition (though it was unsuccessful). As much as I loved the specters, my favourite was always the pair of elephants, sternly marching north toward Mont-Royal, leaving the chaos of the interchange behind them.
And so before any serious construction or demolition work began, I grabbed my camera and ventured in on foot to take one last, close look before they left for good.
— Geoffrey Weeks, July 2011