The firm’s ensemble of work comprises approximately 8000ft2 of symbiotic space, on two separate levels, including a ground-floor bar/lounge, a first-floor restaurant, and an alluring staircase to connect the vibrant spaces.
“The lead architect of the hotel renovation chose an Expo ‘67 retro theme, in the context of Montreal as an international city welcoming the world,” says Zébulon Perron, the firm’s Founder and Creative Director. “The theme and the building itself provided rich inspirations to draw from, but the challenge was to articulate our interpretation in two separate spaces, and to provide a seamless connection between them.”
In approaching their second collaboration with Germain Hotels, Atelier Zébulon Perron embarked on a contemporary vision of a historical era, rolling back layers of history to reveal some of the building’s original Brutalist architecture. Exposed concrete and other raw materials served as inspirational canvases for a contrasting purity of forms and lines, applied to a minimalist design focused on space planning, modern materials and luminosity.
Intrigue through design
A core element of the planning process focused on creating a physical and emotional connection between the two thematically symbiotic spaces. In order to foster intrigue, Atelier Zébulon Perron repositioned the hotel’s centrally-located staircase closer to the front desk area, inviting patrons to explore beyond the confines of the lobby. Rising up through the ceiling and anchored from above, the steel structure and hardwood steps of the new staircase are framed in a transparent wall of steel rods, tactically illuminated to make it as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional.
“Social dynamics and the process of facilitating interaction is an important part of our practice,” explains Perron. “In line with that philosophy, we wanted to create something that would be architecturally engaging, but which would also draw attention to the fact that something was happening upstairs.”
In addressing the design of a welcoming lobby bar/lounge, the firm focused on creating a space where both local patrons and hotel guests can mingle, work, or simply enjoy a drink. With its relaxed retro feel, wrapped in an unpretentious, contemporary decor, Le Flâneur has achieved that goal. Its welcoming blend of conviviality and elegance, with contrasts of raw concrete and noble materials, which creates a balanced warmth designed for people to inhabit, rather than simply admire. Rich, dark woods and marble adorn Le Flâneur’s counters and floors, while strategically-placed dividers provide a contemporary framework for banquettes and chrome cube furnishings that infuse a retro feel into the comfortable setting.
A destination on its own, Le Flâneur’s offering of oysters and champagne bubbles further contributes to the intrigue surrounding the space above – Le Boulevardier, the hotel’s new 110-seat restaurant specialising in classic French cuisine, with a contemporary approach.
Le Boulevardier restaurant
The staircase leading from the lobby to the first-floor restaurant bridges a balanced decor, ascending into a space illuminated by an abundance of natural light. Exposed concrete beams rise above the restaurant’s contemporary decor, which mirrors Le Flâneur’s abundant use of dark woods and marble countertops. From the warmth of a retro ambience where time seemingly stands still, patrons will be mesmerised by a window showcasing the world at their feet, courtesy of floor-to-ceiling windows providing magnificent views overlooking the horizons of President Kennedy Avenue and the downtown streets below.
What’s more, the restaurant’s large-format, floor-to-ceiling windows also serve as an enticing inward portal of intrigue into the restaurant’s interior for curious passers-by. This has been specifically designed to complement the restaurant’s patronage of hotel guests with a potential influx of clients.
While the windows, and the connection that they offer to the downtown streets, expand the horizons exponentially, a strategic gallery of mirrors adorning the ceiling and sidewalls of the restaurant’s interior further provides the illusion of expanding the space well beyond its actual dimensions.
Under the tutelage of Chef David Pellizzari, Le Boulevardier is an extension of the Le Flâneur vibe and theme of social connectivity. Working in close collaboration with a kitchen consultant, Atelier Zébulon Perron achieved continuity through an open kitchen design that seamlessly blends with the space’s decor and ambience, while ensuring maximum operational efficiency for the chef and his staff.
An enlightened ambience
Further illuminating the vision of Atelier Zébulon Perron, the intricate lighting design was integrated into architectural planning from the onset. Working closely with Montreal-based lighting studio Lambert & Fils, the firm designed customised lighting schemes focused on capturing the essence of the spaces through controlled quality, temperature and modulation. Capitalising further on elements paying homage to the original Brutalist architectural language of the building, a concrete grid ceiling with embedded custom copper lights was developed above the ground-level elevators, infusing new life into a dated ambience and further enticing inward exploration of the vibrant new spaces. The night-time lighting of Le Boulevardier results in a more intimate, inward ambience. Natural daytime light gives way to the luminosity of elaborate, modern ceiling systems, further complemented by ground-level retro fixtures that draw patrons back from the external hustle and bustle in order to frame the city from a more observational perspective.
“The spaces capture the essence of the international, retro theme of the hotel renovation, with the added notion of contemporary, non-ostentatious elegance,” sums up Zébulon Perron. “It’s a very relaxed take on elegance, and we are proud to have succeeded in creating an environment that will draw people together in the heart of this great city.”