Some consider Montreal to be the mecca of culture in Canada—a city unafraid of risks—and its architecture reflects that. From lesser-known gems to cult classics, each building has its own unique history and style. With the weather warming up, but the lockdown still in effect, The McGill Tribune has compiled its list of funky buildings that are worth a visit during routine walks.
For over 30 years, La Maison Coloniale has been one of the most polarizing homes in the Plateau. Designed by architect Jacques Rousseau, this house is known for its imposing concrete structure, complete with clinging vines and embossed details. Its menacing size and cold exterior cleverly contrast the quaint multiplexes that surround it. This eccentric home sits on the corner of Avenue Coloniale and Rue Marie-Anne, a quick detour from Saint-Laurent Boulevard.
Known as one of Montreal’s most unique buildings, Habitat 67 has maintained its allure for over 50 years. Nestled along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, the building consists of 354 prefabricated concrete modules connected via walkways and landscaped terraces. Habitat 67 was conceived by Moshe Safdie, who submitted the design as part of his master’s thesis for the School of Architecture at McGill. This architectural icon was originally built to house Expo 67 visitors, but has since been converted into luxury condos. Habitat 67 is worth the visit, and the walking tour is a must for those who want to experience the building up close post-pandemic.
Constructed in 1905, the building previously served as a police station, fire station, post office, municipal court, and town hall for the former city of Saint-Louis. The architects and elected officials behind the project paid homage to French Renaissance castles by incorporating turrets, dungeons, and machicolations. Though it was originally conceived to be an unpretentious civic centre, its intricate architecture and masonry led to final costs being double that of estimates. Its expensive construction indebted the city, with Montreal annexing the municipality only five years after the building’s inauguration. Today, the building houses a fire station, an auxiliary firefighter dispatch, and the Museum of Montreal Firefighters.
2-22, located at the intersection of Rue Sainte-Catherine and Saint-Laurent Boulevard, is the most modern entrant on this list. The building was completed in 2012 to revitalise the area, which had been known for decades as the Red Light district of Montreal. This six-storey building is a dedicated cultural hub whose tenants include a radio station, an information centre, a documentation centre, an arts centre, and a bistro. The most eye-catching aspect of the building is its recessed glass entrance which not only enhances the look of the building, but also allows more pedestrians to walk along the busy street. At night, the building is illuminated by multimedia presentations that are displayed on the unique facade of its double wall structure.
At first glance, the abandoned Canada Malting Co. plant in Montreal’s Saint-Henri borough looks like any other decrepit industrial tower. In late 2019, the two cabins on top of the building were painted pink and red and decorated with green curtains. During the holiday season, the cabins feature a Christmas tree along with other decorations. The person or group behind the painted cabins is unknown, and the display remains shrouded in mystery. According to one of the building’s owners, a trek to the top entails a dangerous 40-foot climb on a ladder. Since being abandoned in 1985, the owners have attempted to discourage intruders, but to little effect: The facility remains popular in the urbex community, which is comprised of people who share a common interest in exploring the built environment. With demolition or renovations expected in the future, a visit here should be done sooner rather than later.