Galleries and their close relatives, crystal palaces, were built throughout Europe in the 19th Century. They were the early fruits of industrialization, which made cheap iron and glass widely available and brought the cost of these nearly unthinkable projects within reach.

Aside from being lovely things, especially when illuminated from within at night, galleries provide excellent protection from the weather and make it possible to extend the season for outdoor activities, such as cafés.

In Canada, the "underground gallery" became popular starting about 1965. It serves the same function as the galleries shown here. However, the underground malls, while providing perfect shelter from wind and snow, are a dead form - the environment is the same night and day, whether sunny or rainy. They were adopted because it is not possible to allow internal combustion engines inside closed spaces, so the streets cannot be covered over. Think how much better Montreal would be if, instead of putting the shopping malls underground, the streets had galleries built over them. In fact, Canadian architect Moshe Safdie has proposed something even better - galleries that can be opened during good weather, the best of all worlds. Whether this proposal is really technically feasible is open to question, but it is a fine notion. It would, of course, require that the affected streets were first made carfree.

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