Port of Montréal Tower and Grand Quai

In 2013, Provencher_Roy won the design competition launched by the Montréal Port Authority, which sought to modernize the terminal's facilities.

Grand Quai & Port of Montreal Tower. Photo credit: Olivier Blouin

The design of the Port of Montréal Tower, by Provencher_Roy, began in 2013 with the intention to combine architecture and landscape.

Following completion, the project now represents a dramatic transformation of an infrastructure complex that was crumbling into an exceptional public landscape.

Standing at 65 metres high, this new icon of the Old Port offers a view of both the city and the river. Similar to a lighthouse, it acts as a landmark for visitors who arrive by boat and signals the entrance to the Port.

For Montréal residents, it marks the presence of the quay as well as a large public square from the pedestrian zones of Old Montréal.

“We tend to forget, as Montréalers, that we live on an island. We had a fantastic opportunity to create a place that celebrates our two natural icons: the majestic Saint-Lawrence River and Mount Royal,” said Sonia Gagné, Architect, Principal Partner and Lead Designer.

The tower overlooks a new elevated promenade that reconnects the city to its waterfront, while also anchoring a redeveloped riverwalk, and creating a gathering place in the Old Port.

As one of the tallest structures in the area, the Tower orients visitors and creates a visual point of reference to help both tourists and residents.

“We wanted to make a statement to attract Montréalers to the end of the pier thanks to quality public spaces, beautiful views from the Tower, access to the river, and a space for citizens,” said Gagné.

The cantilever also opens up to provide 360-degree views. Visitors can see landmarks in all directions from the top, which include Habitat 67, Silo No.5, Basilique Notre-Dame, the Saint Lawrence River, and Mount Royal.

An observation deck set 55 metres above the quay also offers views of the city and river and was designed to be flexibly programmed. It can double as a premier event space and reception hall.

From the observation deck, a sculptural helicoid staircase rises to the belvedere, 10-metres higher, which is a jewel-like glass chamber that also offers more views. The staircase, which is wrapped in gold-coloured balustrades, can be seen from the surrounding city and its form is reminiscent of the 19th-century exterior stairways that define Montréal’s streetscape.

The tower’s design also evokes the site’s rich industrial heritage, which was originally home to four giant wheat-storing hangars before becoming a cruise terminal.

It also takes its proportions from the low-slung port buildings while standing them on end. This creates a form that resembles a grain elevator. The steel structure pays homage to the monumental industrial forms that once defined the port.

Grand Quai. Photo credit: Stéphane Brügger

“We chose to let the Tower’s structure be visible behind a curtain wall to celebrate the site’s industrial heritage. Adjacent to the pier stands the Tour des Convoyeurs, which was used to unload grain from ships generations ago – it’s a reference to it,” said Gagné.

The Alexandra Pier in the Port of Montréal was originally built in 1899 and became one of the world’s busiest grain exporting hubs. The four large storage hangars were later transformed into a maritime terminal for cruise ships and parking lots with the pier having been converted for automobile traffic.

In 2013, Provencher_Roy won the design competition launched by the Montréal Port Authority, which sought to modernize the terminal’s facilities.

The architects completely rethought pedestrian and vehicular access to the site and the terminal now welcomes cruise passengers at ground level. The new circulation pattern also opens up the roof of the esplanade and rationalizes vehicle traffic patterns which allows cars to park in the hangars without disrupting pedestrians.

Designed in collaboration with landscape architects’ NIPPAYSAGE, the newly landscaped pier also provides pedestrians with their rightful place. “The strategy was to create an understated landscape that preserves the significance of the site’s exceptional industrial history, while creating an inviting new destination for pedestrians. Simple gestures were carried out on a grand scale in order to blend in with the industrial context,” said Josée Labelle, landscape architect, partner and founding member of NIPPAYSAGE.

NIPPAYSAGE created a landscaped walkway on the roof of the renovated ferry terminal and used cutting-edge green roof technology. It features over 20,000 plants, selected through extensive research.

The walkway, known as the Promenade d’Iberville, leads to the Place des commencements at the end of the pier through a large wooden terrace with a herringbone pattern that features native trees.

This pedestrian route completes the network of public spaces in the Old Port and reestablishes links between the city and the St. Lawrence River.

“Our client asked for a world-class cruise terminal, and we thought we should give them more than that. By transforming a once decrepit industrial site into inclusive and accessible public spaces, we’ve breathed new life into the whole community and enhanced the city’s quality of life,” said Gagné.

A mission-critical link in Canada’s supply chain, the Port of Montréal supports 589,364 jobs and generates $93.5 billion in economic activity through its service users. These figures from a Martin Associates economic study confirm the importance of the Port of Montréal to the Canadian and Quebec economies, where 3.5 per cent of national GDP and 10 per cent of Quebec GDP are due in part to the business activities driven by the 36 million metric tons (tonnes) of cargo that moved through the Port in 2022.

Technical sheet
Client: Administration portuaire de Montréal (AMP)
Address: 200 rue de la Commune Ouest, Montréal, Québec, H2Y 4B2
Year: 2013-2023
Surface Area: 38 000 m²
Architect: Provencher_Roy
Landscape: NIPPAYSAGE
Structure: NCK
Electromechanical: Pageau Morel
Civil: GÉNIPUR
Maritime Infrastructure: WSP Group
Structural Glass: Elema
Lighting: CS Design
Consultant: Arup
Builder: Pomerleau

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