The Francon Quarry, which we refer to as the Pit, is an enigmatic space at the heart of Saint-Michel borough of Montreal, often unseen despite its spectacular size. Its landscape, a post-extraction site that now receives almost half of Montreal’s snow, hides a history of dreamed and contested futures from geologists, corporations, and local activist communities. We approached this space as part of the Infrastructures of Ethnography project at the Concordia Ethnography Lab. We produced a zine inspired by a request from a community leader in Saint-Michel who told us “the way you could help us, is to visualize the possibilities”. Having that in mind, and following our lab’s composite ethnography methodology, we decided to trace our encounter with the Pit and the things we learned in the process of getting acquainted with the Francon Quarry and the different futures associated with it. Our final aim is to share and sensitize locals and foreigners in an alternative manner about our mundane but profound connections with this site. Through the production of this zine, we also sought to enact care and fun as collaborative research methods in their own right.
Drawn by a common interest in how soil and dirt move around the city, we chose this site as an emblem of what happens once highly valued earth has been removed (in this case, to build most of Montreal’s old limestone city). The quarry is often represented in Montreal as a problem, as a blighted location centring dirty and impassable infrastructures, sitting in the center of one of the city’s most impoverished immigrant neighbourhoods, but difficult to change for its sheer scale (see Tremblay and Toso 2020 recent photo essay of the site). Nevertheless, it is a topic of interest for a participatory urbanism project between the neighbours and the Villeray-St. Michel-Parc Extension district called “Francon, Coeur de Notre Quartier” (or “Francon, Heart of Our Neighborhood” in English).
Toso, Tricia, and Pier-Olivier Tremblay. 2021. “Encounters with Urban Glaciers: Notes Toward an Ethnography of the Snow Dump.” HELIOTROPE. Available from: https://www.heliotropejournal.net/helio/glacier-encounters.