Building Community In A Hyper-Dense Area, Humaniti Is Montreal’s First ‘Vertical City’

Located at the crossroads of the International district, the Quartier des spectacles and Old Montreal, Humaniti is Montreal’s tallest mixed-use community. Including a luxury hotel, rental units, restaurants, boutiques and public spaces, its unique H-shaped design promotes a dialogue and openness across its 39 floors and differing vocations. The multifunctional plaza is an extension of the magnificent Place Jean-Paul Riopelle that faces the project, named after the internationally renowned Quebec painter and sculptor.

The objective was to create a tower that would have a presence in the Montreal city skyline while also creating a sense of community in a hyper-dense area. Canadian design firm Lemay was brought in as lead architect while sister brand Lemay + Escobar crafted the interiors of the hotel.

Photo via Adrien Williams.

Photo via Adrien Williams.

The Blades
From the center of Place Jean-Paul Riopelle, one can see two narrow blades that split. The tallest blade has a truncated shape which pays homage to Manhattan’s Flatiron building. The second blade appears as though it splits off and falls from the monolith. The breathtaking effect amplifies the experience from the neighboring square, echoing the mist in the central fountain back towards the vertical community.

The Hives
The hives are a distinctive architectural gesture for the project, reinforcing the vertical city concept. While not visible from the street in its entirety, these prefabricated balconies break the scale of the project and create a domestic discourse. Each hive accommodates around four households, similar to the typology found in many Montreal neighborhoods. Their staggered arrangement favors the penetration of natural light within residential units and attracts the eye through their rhythm and simplicity. The hives’ human scale and well-defined groupings of condos evoke a smaller community feel while accommodating hundreds of dwellings.

“Humaniti has shifted the playing field for mixed-use projects in Montreal and Canada, a testament to the courage of the development team. It challenges the status quo in so many ways,” says Andrew King, Chief Design Officer of Lemay. “It has emerged as an example of how thoughtful and nuanced design excellence strategies can play a part in the success of complex, large developments. Humaniti is key to the resurgence of this city, a symbol of Montreal’s future as a design capital of the world.”

The Hotel
The 4.5-star Marriott Autograph Collection hotel is spread over 11 floors, and is suspended on a cantilever-shaped structure, marrying Humaniti’s residential and commercial complexes, completing the community’s unique “H” shape.

“We are in the Quartier International, a few steps from the Palais des Congrès, the iconic convention center, and on the threshold of the historic city center,” explains Andres Escobar, Design Principal of Lemay + Escobar. “It is an iconic, youthful, and vibrant scene and therefore we wanted the focus to be fun, joyous, and be very much contemporary. We drafted the space with clean lines and curated it with eclectic art and furniture.”

Inside the hotel, two concurrent design themes are at work: the bold, geometric accents inspired by the sharp architecture of Humaniti, and the softer, tranquil emphasis on the concept of “humanity”.

This is no better exemplified than in the lobby of the Humaniti Montreal Hotel, as the chandelier, twisted in the sinuous shape of a DNA strand, beautifully complements the high ceilings, geometric floors, and striking ceiling pattern, along with the gold linear partition. The sculptural art pieces displayed throughout the lobby convey a similar contrast between geometry and humanity.

The same holistic approach characterizes the guestrooms. Their color palette consists primarily of rich yellows and deep teals. This fosters a rich balance between the happiness and spontaneity of yellow, and the tranquility, and peaceful optimism of teal. The geometric patterns found in the guest rooms, seen both in the carpet and bathroom tile, underscore the overall architecture of Humaniti. These elements provide a vibrant contrast to softer design elements such as the artwork, inspired by mother nature, and the human-like pair of sculptures.

Connecting Urban Dwellers to Nature
The vertical community allows residents and visitors alike to enjoy big city living, while connecting with nature, favoring the well-being and dialogue between its residents and the space they inhabit. Designed to embrace the surrounding green spaces, Humaniti reconnects urban dwellers to their natural environment. Its design proposes a lifestyle that reduces the need for artificial light and promotes access to daylight and views, in an effort to create a sense of serenity in an otherwise dynamic and connected context. The project’s color scheme was thoughtfully selected based on those that can be found in natural spaces, further solidifying the connection to nature.

Imagery by Brandon Barre.

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