Uncovering the Soul of Public Spaces: A Day at Place des Arts

How we design spaces that let us be human, where spontaneous, real-life connections happen.

A duotone colourized photo in royal blue and pale red of Montreal's Place des Arts.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Ever been to Place des Arts? It’s a spot in Montréal that swings between serene and lively, depending on the day. Kids and dogs can’t get enough of the fountain spouts built into the walkway, surrounded by public art. There are seats and picnic tables all over, many with sturdy umbrellas for shade, and half the area is framed generously by trees. You don’t need to pay anyone to sit at a table and enjoy your time.

I wandered there in May, book in hand, and observed the first person of the day to open a nearby patio umbrella. They were sprawled out on a lounge chair, probably checking emails. A skateboarder carved down the space’s gentle slope, conducting to his music. He stopped in front of a group and popped his can headphones onto his friend’s head. Someone’s daughter shrieked gleefully as she leaned into the fountain spray, holding tight to her dad’s arm. She wailed sadly as they walked up the esplanade and away from the frothy show.

Public spaces like Place des Arts are about your day’s small, transitionary moments. There are no strict rules, only features that anyone can enjoy. You bring your lunch, chill with a book, and hang out with friends and pets. It’s got everything around it—art, shops, food, and easy transport—in the middle of your bustling weekday.

Crafting Thoughtful Online Spaces

I travelled to Québec thanks to an invite from The Browser Company of New York (BCNY) to chat about digital spaces in a world we visit daily—the modern Internet. I got to be part of an exclusive user panel, sharing my thoughts and feedback with the crew behind Arc Browser. BCNY is crafting an online gateway that’s all about making our digital lives easier and more enjoyable.

When it comes to working on screens, I see it like dealing with layers in Adobe software. I kick off any day or project with the basics like design resources, then dive into my go-to tools like email, give myself some space to daydream, and keep tabs on a bunch of useful links to stuff like banks and Canadian Tire—what I call “Life.” It’s easy to forget the fun spots, but as I roamed around Montréal, I realized those places are where all the spontaneous, real-life connections happen.

Changing Landscapes and Human-Centered Design

Montréal got me thinking about how we design spaces that let us be human. The city encourages people to linger, explore, and take breaks. Having spaces to breathe, relax, and play is just as crucial as our work grind. These human-centric spots are the heartbeat of the city’s vibe and culture.

Smart, human-focused design is more than just ticking boxes for practicality and corporate interests. I got a taste of a city and a company that balances efficiency with a laid-back, joyful touch. Place des Arts nails the blend of chill and hustle, making the city vibrant and tuned into both our daily needs and our cravings for fun. It’s a reminder that the best spaces, whether in the real world or online, mix comfort, functionality, and a bit of soul.

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