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December 24, 2009

Montreal architect designed Canada’s first shopping centres

A Max Kalman building rarely gave off the kind of avant-garde feel that would make the covers of architectural magazines. The more than 1,100 mostly workaday projects he oversaw could, however, chart the post-war development of Montreal commercial and real estate properties. As an architect, he was obsessed with efficiency, both in a building’s form and with the schedule and budget that got it up, leading him to be hired repeatedly by businessmen and developers.

From schools, synagogues and supermarkets to low-rent apartment blocks and expensive homes, his projects were institutional, commercial and residential, and most still dot the city in their original functions. Despite him working under the radar of the design mavens, his name would make it into encyclopedic entries on modern Canadian architecture.

By way of some good postwar timing, Mr. Kalman happened to design the first shopping centre in Canada, which still stands today in the Montreal borough of St. Laurent. Norgate Shopping Centre opened in 1949, a modest, uncovered, L-shaped strip of stores, with a parking lot that filled the inside of the “L.” Its boast would be that it took care of its customers’ shopping needs from just one location.

The Globe and Mail