The app covers some 150 works of art and architecture that read like an open book on the social, economic and environmental concerns of the people who built the country and left their mark on an era; some 100 experts and creators; 40 original music pieces and more than 20 hours of information about 7 Canadian cities.

This application tells the story of a modern country, where the arts, architecture and design hold a predominant place.

For the past 10 years, the Montreal-based independent organization Portrait Sonore has been working on “pocket documentaries” dealing with architecture and public art, mainly from the modern era (1930–1970), and distributing them for free on its app. The range of works selected in each of the seven Canadian cities includes mainly buildings that bear witness to the architectural effervescence of the 1950s and 1970s, and that shaped the development of downtown areas. These bold and innovative works are seldom recognized as such and are indeed unappreciated, disliked, or even threatened with demolition. These works help us better understand the cities of today. Although some often view the architectural past as rife with aesthetic blunders, they may come to appreciate the logic behind the creation of a particular building and the historical reasons for its existence.

Portrait Sonore Launches its Free Application on Art, History and Architecture
Interior view of the Law Courts building, leading to Robson Square. Vancouver.
© Portrait Sonore, 2018

Every day, people pass through neighbourhoods blind to the built environment. The Portrait Sonore walks, rich in sound textures and testimonials, are an extraordinary way to get to know and experience the city. They lead us into the heart of a neighbourhood, guided by information that connects buildings to the values and concerns they express and address. For those who take the time to walk and explore the city, the Portrait Sonore strolls offer a lively journey through history. What’s more, specially composed music adds new meaning to the works, demonstrating that they are not frozen in time.

Portrait Sonore Launches its Free Application on Art, History and Architecture
© Portrait Sonore, 2018

So far, Portrait Sonore has recorded a dozen walks in 7 cities across Canada, all found on the Portrait Sonore app. Together, they are the fruit of much labour and of multiple collaborations throughout the country, with the participation of over 100 experts and creators. They’ve also created an exceptional catalogue of recorded testimonials including those of the late Luc Durand, Melvin Charney, Bing Thom and others, who remain alive in our ears…What an honour it is to still be able to listen to them talk! They allow us to see the modernity of the urban landscape, and convey their capacity to dream and to think the future.

Portrait Sonore Launches its Free Application on Art, History and Architecture
Hugh Robertson, Panda, HRC Collection/Dominion Modern

And there is more

With the recent addition of the app for Leonard Cohen’s Montreal walk (produced by the CBC), Portrait Sonore has taken on a new challenge: producing new “biographical” experiences through which to discover the city.

The app provides a standard of reference in Canada for a platform that spotlights creativity and breathes new life into the shared heritage by collaborating with contemporary artists. The goal is to reveal meaning through art.

Finally, in addition to hosting the organization’s own projects, the Portrait Sonore platform is also designed to host content produced by third parties (museums, cultural organizations, municipalities, citizen initiatives, etc.). They can collaborate on, or supervise and host any project that enhances knowledge about a neighbourhood, a piece of art, a monument, etc.

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