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Architectural Pilgrimage: Why Every Design Enthusiast Should Visit Montréal

Architizer is thrilled to announce the winners of the 10th Annual A+Awards! Want to earn global recognition for your projects? Sign up to be notified when the 11th Annual A+Awards program launches.  

The buzzing city of Montréal is located in Canada’s francophone province of Québec and exudes an incredible spirit and culture. Founded in the 17th century and once part of Colonial France, the city’s official language is French, although many bilingual and anglophone populations still reside in Montréal.

Examples of colonial-era architecture can be seen throughout the city’s Old Town, characterized by its grey stone and ornamented French aesthetic. As visitors move away from the historical center, they are confronted by diverse architectural styles ranging from Art Deco to Brutalist (Bonjour/Hi Habitat 67!) to contemporary. One of the city’s most prized monuments remains the Notre Dame of Montréal Basilica, which boasts an incredible Gothic Revival interior. (Mark Twain once dubbed it “The City of a Hundred Steeples.”)  

Notre Dame Basilica Interior by Diliff, Wikimedia Commons.

The city is filled with incredible culture, a bustling dining scene, renowned outdoor markets, expressive architecture, a vibrant student community and an abundance of public spaces. There is so much to do and see in Montréal and there is no surprise that it maintains such a youthful, spirited and creative population. There are countless reasons to visit Montréal and here are just a few that will appeal to architectural enthusiasts.

Cultural Sites and Museums 

Montréal’s museum portfolio is impressive with over 40 international museums to tour. One of the most visited and admired centers is the Biodome Science Museum. The site was originally constructed for the 1976 Olympics and later opened as the Biodome in 1992. The center houses an array of learning facilities and is one of the most visited spaces in Canada. In 2014, KANVA was commissioned to oversee the renovation of all the center’s spaces – the planetarium, insectarium and botanical garden to name a few.

Biodome Science Museum by KANVA, Montréal, Canada | Jury & Popular Choice Winner, 2022 A+Awards, Museum | Photos by Marc Cramer

One of the main objectives was to sensitize visitors to the complexities and realities of today’s natural environments. To do so, a collaborative approach amongst professionals paved the way to create an educational and highly sculptural space. To harmonize all the different centers, a living skin wraps around each ecosystem, which unifies and guides the visitors through each exhibit of the museum. The translucent skin works with the center’s large skylight to radiate a sense of brightness and calm into the space. The Biodome is sensorial, distinguished and certainly worth the visit.

Heritage Architecture 

History and heritage are evident throughout Montréal and require architects to carefully design and preserve the city’s rich architectural history. Future Simple Studio recently renovated a residential loft located in the city’s Old Port district. 

Rue de la Gauchetière Loft by Future Simple Studio, Montreal, Quebec. Jury Winner, 2022 A+Awards, Apartment

The Rue de la Gauchetière Loft is located in a hundred-year-old heritage building and celebrates urban family living while respecting the site’s industrial origins. Embracing the idea of a box within a box, the interior is comprised of two glazed wooden volumes that serve as the bedrooms. These two structures are used to organize the rest of the living spaces into one open functional floor plan. The interior color palette speaks to its historic past with a tactile and warm aesthetic. Natural tones such as walnut, grays and mirrored spaces help illuminate the original brick walls and concrete. Large windows further connect this residence with the equally historic surrounding environment.

Outdoor Recreation and Parks 

Montréal is home to numerous parks and outdoor spaces that encourage the local community to spend time outdoors all year long. Mount Royal is a historic park first designed by the famed Central Park architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Designed to be enjoyed every season, the park is perfect to engage in any activity – bird watching, yoga, sledding, unwinding, picnicking.

Back in 2017 perraultarchitecture (atelier urban face) was commissioned to construct a set of kiosks for the park. Located in Mount Royal’s Beaver Lake, the Beaver Lake Kiosks are three angular volumes inscribed into the landscape. They explore the theme of wind and movement through their angular and tilted form. The design prioritizes lightness and transparency with floor-to-ceiling windows that connect the interior open plan with the exterior landscape. Each kiosk serves a different function – a ticket service, a learning space and an employee section – although they remain connected through a uniform visual language.

A Bustling Hospitality Industry

The hospitality industry is integral to the city’s vibrancy and admired lifestyle, and without it, Montréal would not be the same. Each neighborhood is filled with local restaurants and bars which serve to create a strong sense of community and connection.

Located in Montréal’s Parc-Extension neighborhood is Brasserie Harricana, a restaurant designed by Alain Carle Architecte to encourage interaction in the public domain. The Park-Extension neighborhood is up-and-coming and Brasserie Harricana aids in establishing a sense of urban dynamism. The restaurant was greatly influenced by the owner’s parents, who once owned a restaurant near Quebec’s Harricana river. Elements from this past family restaurant were used to develop the interior palette and theme. The restaurant’s pink leatherette and cognac-colored chairs reflect the family’s history working in the restaurant industry and create a warm ambiance. An existing subdivision creates different spatial sections however, all are unified through a lasso-shaped bar. White Carrara marble floors and pronounced Douglas fir ceilings create a warm atmosphere that feels both contemporary and traditional.

A City of Creative Spirits 

Montréal is filled with creative individuals with playful spirits, and this is reflected in the city’s architecture. Take In Suspension for example. Designed by _naturehumaine, this home was built for a client who wanted her home to better suit her grown children. In order to achieve this request, the design team opened up the space and created a loft-like interior.

In Suspension by _naturehumaine, Montréal, Canada.

Two box-like volumes compose the second level and each house a bedroom and private bathroom. These spaces allow all the adults to maintain a degree of privacy while living together. Moreover, the client’s children enjoy athletics, and to meet their needs, workout equipment is suspended from the walls and ceiling. This home design is unusual, distinctive and reflects the creative energy and unconventional thinking of many Montrealers.

Architizer is thrilled to announce the winners of the 10th Annual A+Awards! Want to earn global recognition for your projects? Sign up to be notified when the 11th Annual A+Awards program launches. 

Top Image: Résidence Hotel-de-Ville by Architecture Microclimat, Montréal, Canada. Photo by Adrien Williams

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