Roger Taillibert, architect of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, dead at 93

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Roger Taillibert, the French architect who designed Montreal’s Olympic Stadium for the 1976 Olympic Games, has died in Paris.

He was 93 years old.

The stadium, with its retractable roof and 175-metre leaning tower, is one of Montreal’s most famous buildings.

In addition to this stadium, Taillibert designed the Montreal Olympic Pool and the Montreal velodrome — now the Montreal Biodôme ​​​​​. 

Outside of Montreal, Taillibert’s work included the Park de Princes stadium in Paris and skyscrapers in Doha, Qatar. 

Taillibert was asked to design the Olympic Stadium by Mayor Jean Drapeau, who saw Taillibert as a great artist, and gave him artistic freedom when it came to the stadium.

Roger Taillibert, architect of Montreal's Olympic Stadium, dead at 93
Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, seen here from Mount Royal Thursday, March 21, 2002 was a controversial yet iconic building in Montreal since its construction. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

“Taillibert is the kind of architect who built the cathedrals of ancient times,” said Drapeau, calling Taillibert’s designs “poems in concrete.”

Taillibert himself said that he hoped the curves of his buildings would arouse emotional responses.  

“If a monument brings emotion, there is immediately a permanent presence of the monument among men,” he said. 

The Olympic Stadium architect talks about his controversial design. 7:21

For others, however, Taillibert and his famous stadium were controversial choices. 

Canadian architects were frustrated that a French architect was chosen to design Olympic buildings in a Canadian city, with Canadian architect Arthur Erickson calling the decision to tap Taillibert a “national disgrace” on CBC Radio.

Construction on the stadium was also fraught with cost overruns, labour strikes and walkouts, which heightened fears that the stadium would not be completed in time for the Games. 

By the time the Games began, the stadium was functional but the tower was not completed and the retractable roof had not yet been installed.

After the Olympics, the stadium continued to face problems, like ice damage causing the roof to be repaired several times, and concrete slabs falling from the ceiling of its underground parking facility.

Officials are still considering installing a new retractable roof.

The stadium remains an icon in the Montreal skyline, despite its controversial past.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante tweeted Thursday that Taillibert leaves behind a great legacy in Montreal.

“The Olympic Stadium is known around the world and has given us some great moments in our history,” she wrote.

Taillibert often responded to his critics with a cool blanket statement: “There are always critics; only those who do nothing have no critics.”

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