La Tohu

Urban development in impoverished areas


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2345, rue Jarry Est (angle d'Iberville) Montréal (Québec) H1Z 4P3
CA Canada


About the project Edit

La TOHU is a non-profit organization founded by En Piste (National Association of Circus Arts), the National Circus School and Cirque du Soleil. It is one of the very rare urban development operations in a disadvantaged area that focuses on the arts and creation that have attained this magnitude. Moreover, La TOHU is located on one of the largest urban landfill sites in North America and is in the midst of transforming this vast space into a nature park. In operation since June 2004, today La TOHU is one of the world's largest gathering places for circus arts training, creation, production and performance. It is remarkable not only for its facilities, but also for the extraordinary influence its citizens exercise on the international stage.


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

La TOHU is an extraordinary experience in urban development in an impoverished neighbourhood that focuses on the arts and creation. One journalist described it this way: “La TOHU is the triumph of the imagination and savoir-faire over freeways, poverty, decay and the stink of garbage. It is the response of a new kind of Quebec engineering to unfettered and irresponsible land development. It is the flower that blooms in the compost heap. In the end, it is Montreal itself being reborn from its ashes in a joyful hubbub of activity.”

What is the social value of this project? Edit

By establishing itself in the Saint-Michel neighbourhood in Montreal, one of the most sensitive ones in Canada, TOHU participated in its economic, social and cultural development. TOHU endowed the Saint-Michel neighbourhood with its first cultural venue. Today, as well as hosting various high-level events in circus arts, the TOHU pavillion provides a myriad of activities and services that are free of charge including: shows, exhibits, guided visits of Saint-Michel Environmental Complex (SMEC) and fun and educational gatherings. The building is surrounded by a public place where community members can get together and share ideas all year round.

Moreover, la TOHU has a special employment policy. La TOHU’s customer service was signed completely, “Saint-Michel district”. In effect, all people who cross paths – whether on the site, in the parking lot, in the café, coat room or hall – have something in common. They are all residents of Saint-Michel in Montreal. This is an example of concrete action of how La TOHU participates in the social and economic development of the neighbourhood. TOHU wants to be a place of innovation that is sensitive to the needs of its community. It pursues objectives such as social utility, individual and collective management, collective revitalization and job creation.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

TOHU is an experience of urban integration which has the potential to be replicated in other cities with other forms of arts, not just circus arts.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

What was the initial spark? Le Cirque. TOHU, the Circus Arts Centre was born from a collective dream in the Montreal circus world.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Finally, La TOHU decided to focus on the principles of social economy. It wants to create a link of social and economic development according to the needs of the neighbourhood because it maintains particularly direct links to it. La TOHU pursues objectives in social utility, individual and collective empowerment, collective revitalization and job creation. It integrates development strategies, like daily actions, with a perspective in sustainable development.

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  • INM


    L’Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM) est un organisme non partisan dont la mission est de favoriser la participation citoyenne et de renouveler les idées au Québec. Aujourd’hui, les principaux champs d’expertise de l’INM sont: la participation citoyenne, la démocratie participative, l’acceptabilité sociale, la gouvernance participative, l’entrepreneuriat social et l'innovation sociale.