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Photo: Claude Laprise en Unsplash

The story goes like this: at some point, the newly created North American cities met at an undisclosed location for a private conference. They were to decide how they should build the prospective avenues, business areas, museums, boulevards, and public buildings. They did not seem to agree about the style.

We do not know who it was who said this, but someone uttered:
“What we really need is an easy-going architecture. North-America’s answer to the class, refinement, and good taste of Europe. Taste and beauty are nice, but you cannot plop a soccer stadium on top of the Colosseum, can you? We are functional people; ergo, our cities must be functional, like a cowboy riding a Mustang in a pair of pyjamas and sleepers. I believe we should construct all our houses like big shoeboxes, each one an exact reproduction of the one next to it. And we ought to put special emphasis on the malls, which are going to be like enclosed avenues, where North Americans will be able to walk twenty steps per month, in their pyjamas and sleepers, after parking their V8 at the entrance. Who’s with me?”

This is 58% true and, of course, it was North America’s response to class, to refinement, to European flair. Taste and beauty are nice, but you cannot put a baseball stadium on the Colosseum, can you?

New York stormed out of that meeting. Chicago stabbed a knife in the table before leaving. Montreal murmured “Maybe in Quartier 10/30” and Québec said they were going to think about it. Toronto fainted from the emotion and Boston said something, but no one understood their accent.

Several cities stayed at the negotiation table, like obedient dogs. Trois-Rivières, from the Canadian side was the most notable one.

Trois-Rivières is Donald’s Trump wet dream.
Following the conference blueprint, a mastermind engineer took a pristine forest, cleared it, and started building malls in the middle of the path between Montreal and Quebec City. He continued building a ton of malls; and in between the malls he put in mini marts, bookstores, gas stations, convenience stores, sex shops and so on. He rested on the seventh day. He saw that everything he had made was good, because he had no effing taste. And then he thought: Oh, my! I have forgotten to plant enough trees! Then he planted like seven.

There is no natural beauty in Trois-Rivières, and almost no beauty at all. Well, ok, they have the most beautiful cemetery I have ever seen. There is also a park with ancient trees and a Virgin Mary statue at a roundabout. And that’s pretty much it. I saved you the trip.

I know some of you may think this is harsh criticism, but it’s not. On the contrary, I kind of dig what American cities built like Trois-Rivières represent: Comfy blankets for overworked people. They are the capitalistic response to the existential anguish one may experience when we view life like a continuous Sunday afternoon. Many people live like that, buying their way out of depression. Fine with me. Beauty is not all: let’s remember that in the name of beauty, we have committed several Riopelle.

Pedro Carbajal

Born in Uruguay and raised in Argentina is a McGill University Translation Alumni (Dean’s Honour list) and a York University Interpretation Alumni now living in Canada.