On November 21, 1987 – The funicular and the observatory at the top of Montreal Tower were officially opened to public.
Montreal Tower is the tallest inclined tower in the world. It is 165 m high and leaning at 45 degrees angle! The 50-passenger capacity funicular inside is also a unique built from glass, operating in a curved structure. There is an observatory on top which will give you a view around Montreal for up to 80 km.
This tower is attached to the stadium at Parc Olympique. As per the original design, this stadium was to be covered by retractable roof tied through cables from this tower to open and close it. The design was created by French Architect Roger Taillibert.
The origin of Parc Olympique can be traced back to 1969 when the Mayor of Montreal Jean Drapeau was putting efforts to make his dream come true. As a result of his efforts and representation of Montreal and Canada as a strong host for the games, on May 12th 1970, International Olympic Committee announced that City of Montreal will host the 1976 games.
It took couple of years for design finalization for the Olympic Park and the work began on April 28, 1973. The structure and underground work were so giant that the column casting could not start until August 1974. Olympic games were scheduled to start on July 17, 1976 and there was no much time left for construction. In May 1975, workers walked off the site and the construction was on hold until they returned on October 26, 1975. This event put a heavy impact on construction schedule. The Quebec National Assembly was worried about completion as Canada was hosting such a big Olympic event for the first time in History and so the management was changed and the work was pushed for a timely completion.
Obviously, with all the delays mentioned above, the stadium was not 100% complete at commencement of the games and the remaining work started after the games. On August 2, 1976, the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOG) returned the park to RIO (Regie des Installations Olympique- Govt. of Quebec).
In 1976, the Montreal Tower construction was up to around 230 ft from ground and then it stopped until games were over. The construction of the tower and the roof began once again in June 1979. For more than 6 years the roof was just sitting inside a warehouse. After 11 years of the Olympic games, in 1987, the tower and the roof were completely operational but the roof was very heavy and could not withstand heavy winds and so it was kept suspended permanently after few uses.
The retractable roof controlled from the tower was one of the key features of original design. Unfortunately, the stadium never got a full proof roof ever. There were always some issues with the roof and partial failures especially due to bad weather conditions in Montreal. A fixed roof was installed in 1998 which also could not prove to be a permanently safe roof. Finally, in November 2017, Quebec Government approved a new roof which will be close to original design intent of the roof, but it will be flexible and not fully retractable.
There are many controversies on design and construction part since beginning of the project, but the structure is a great monument making it a true architectural masterpiece and a heritage site. It takes lot of courage and creativity to design and build such a huge concrete structure with lots of curves. For years, millions of visitors will ask one common question “How can you build such a tall inclined tower out of concrete?”