Welcome to My City
The newly opened Monville Hotel is a new-build boutique hotel addressing Montréal’s busy rue de Bleury but with its longer façade sliding down narrow rue de la Gauchetière. It is a fine example of a return to hotels intended as defining moments within the cityscape. Atop a minimalist, street-hugging glazed podium, a narrow, 16-storey precast concrete slab weaves a simple black and white trompe-l’oeil pattern that ensures visual attention while subtlety referencing, says architect Maxime-Alexis Frappier of ACDF Architecture, the city’s history for finely stitched suits. Its relatively low density location ensures the hotel serves as a landmark.
But for Frappier, it’s the lobby that provides a hotel its defining character. Not only a place to see and be seen, it is that vital urban space where strangers meet the city. Not incidentally, Monville’s European model of primarily small affordable rooms means the lobby must be a welcoming social space, even a casual working space, something like a gourmet coffee bistro on a grander scale. Entered through an eroded entrance off de Bleury, the revealed lobby explodes open with its three-storey height and the architect’s deliberate moves to introduce monumental grandeur, albeit stripped down.
The defining intervention is 12 massive paired columns that march down the lobby. That the effect resembles the soaring naves of so many of the city’s historic churches is no accident, says Frappier. Painted white for the first storey then black to the ceiling, the oversized but simple columns suggest more a spare Romanesque pedigree than Gothic’s decorative tendencies. Custom lamps by Montréal’s Lambert et Fils spring out from the columns where white meets black, a gesture to introduce more human scale.
Along the narrow south aisle paralleling de la Gauchetière, the glass curtain wall is broken by a march of massive vertical oak fins set on an angle. This skew, the architect says, helps mediate the inside/outside relationship adding a bit of peek-a-boo mystery. Between these engaged columns, custom furniture provides tables and chairs suitable for a little laptop work.
Within the central nave, a large chesterfield in Montréal’s official plaid, modern wing back chairs, a long table with stools and clusters of mid-century style arm chair create clustered spaces for meeting, work, or just socializing. But at the far west end, things turn a wee bit more profane. A lozenge-shaped bar, made from the same gleaming white terrazzo as the floor, loops organically around one of the columns providing seating for 30 patrons. The bistro-style Gourmet Monville café, with seating along the north aisle next to the bar, terminates the nave.
Along the wider, more animated northern aisle, only a small reception desk is visible on entry to encourage Monville’s guests to use the hotel’s state-of-the-art, “40 second” self-check-in kiosks. These are tucked below a floating oak box containing in part a second level quadrilateral shaped “library” overlooking de Bleury. At the bar end, three additional minimalist oak boxes are stacked to the ceiling with precarious cantilevers. These contain upper mezzanines, a DJ booth, and a washroom corridor. In between the boxes is the elevator lobby, screened by a porous veil of black steel, a simple device used in several iterations in the lobby. This detailing, says Frappier, abstractly references Montréal’s ubiquitous exterior metal staircases. Along the north wall, between the boxes and even onto the ceiling, Montréal -based rock music photographer Valerie Jodoin Keating has provided a whimsical mural using vintage black and white photographs of the city’s daily life.
Most of the 269 rooms are modest in size, entered directly through their bathrooms but made to seem larger by their floor-to-ceiling/wall-to-wall window. Again, rich oak paneling incorporating a canted headboard for a king-sized bed stretches along one wall. Each room’s smart TV can be synced with personal digital devices or used to order room service, the latter delivered by an already very popular robot.
Owned by Old Montréal’s historic boutique Gault Hotel, Monville is intended as the flagship for a future “collection” of hotels already in development in Ottawa and Toronto that demonstrates that a modest hotel can be stylish and comfortably functional while enhancing its urban environment.
Photography by Adrien Williams.