Carré des Arts

Carré des Arts (Photo credit: David Boyer)

Located in the Centre-South Montreal borough of Ville-Marie, Carré des Arts is a residential rental project consisting of 46 units. Imagined by Sid Lee Architecture and executed by ADHOC Architectes, this project involves the expansion and transformation of the former All Nations Church’s commercial spaces. This project offers a unique visual signature, blending the modernity of added residential spaces with the heritage of the former place of worship, which had been previously converted into a recording studio.

The project, which faces the northern entrance of the Saint-Jacques Market, spans the block of Sherbrooke East, Wolfe, and Atateken streets. The project required considerable thought about how to integrate high density housing into a complex urban context that overlooked three different streets.

Carré des Arts (Photo credit: David Boyer)

The unique proposal is a response to the abundance of public space that surrounds it and reframes the former place of worship. The project was also executed through public consultation, and was the subject of several upstream reflections that led to social acceptance by local residents and organizations.

Working on the transformation of a heritage building requires an understanding of the context and a commitment to maintaining specific architectural and socio-cultural continuity. In the case of the Carré des Arts project, Sid Lee Architecture aimed not just to conserve the original structure of the former church but also to accentuate its distinctive form and features and honouring the cultural heritage of the site.

Carré des Arts (Photo credit: David Boyer)

Implantation on a confined site with intricate setbacks required planning for both pedestrian and vehicular access. Technical expertise was crucial to preserve the building’s integrity and achieve the most well-considered conservation possible. The seamless connection between the older elements and the contemporary additions was executed with precision, resulted in an interplay of levels that enriches the heritage of the environment. Various features of the original architecture, including ornamental brick treatments, distinctive peace symbols on the façade, and the massive door, were retained during the conversion effort. These preserved details contribute authenticity to the elements and introduce aesthetic depth to the project, establishing a new signature deeply rooted in history.

The new volume housing the majority of the apartments stands out with vibrant geometry. Intertwining with the heritage building, it resembles a series of blocks delicately stacked on a pedestal, forming a checkerboard building that introduces an unexpected interplay of form and function.

Carré des Arts (Photo credit: David Boyer)

Composed of a series of cubes piled atop one another, a recurrent theme in Sid Lee Architecture’s portfolio, the arrangement of small units lends a human scale to the architectural design. This is achieved through the alternation of inward bay windows and outward loggias. The movement, which emanates from the building, guides the eye, producing an illusion of continuity that encourages pedestrians to pause and reflect. In unison, the two volumes present a striking fusion of the past and present.

This geometrical work also required inventive construction strategies developed on site, in order to ensure the seamless integration of the new elements with the old structures. Meticulous coordination between the architectural, structural, and mechanical teams enabled complex structural details such as double cantilevers to be resolved, thermal insulation to be mastered, and junctions to be managed with precision.

Carré des Arts (Photo credit: David Boyer)

The key idea of the project was to project warm living areas open to a unique urban context. The structure of the grid gives way to vast, open interior spaces. Wooden surfaces adorning each of the balconies also accentuate the enveloping aspect of the form, while resonating with the warm, vibrant neighborhood.

“In working with the alternating grid, the formal interplay created will have maximized interior and exterior spaces, offering each resident a unique view of the city coupled with a sense of intimacy,” said Jean Pelland, architect and principal partner of Sid Lee Architecture.


Technical sheet:
Location: 1115 Square-Amherst
Client: Private client
Architect (concept): Sid Lee Architecture
Architect (execution): ADHOC Architectes
Area: 34 154 sq. ft.
Electromechanical engineers: SP Génie Conseil
Structural engineers: CPF Groupe Conseil
Photographer: David Boyer
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