A national historic site, Montreal City Hall was one of the first monumental single-purpose city halls in Canada. Built between 1872 and 1878 after plans prepared by Hutchison & Perrault, the building was severely damaged by fire in 1922, leaving only its outer walls and destroying many of the city's historic records. Commissioned to oversee reconstruction, the architect Louis Parent designed an entirely new building with a self-supporting steel structure erected inside the shell of the ruins. Inspired by the city hall of the French city of Tours, Parent remodelled the mansard roof with a copper finish instead of the original slate tiles and completely restored the original limestone facades. With its dense and abundant use of ornamentation, Montreal City Hall is one of Canada’s finest examples of the Second Empire style.
The exterior restoration of this historic monument was undertaken following detailed site inspections and a careful evaluation of its iconic and heritage value. The restoration approach is based on the respectful recreation of the original artefact and the use of the same artisanal techniques employed in the construction of the original structure.
The mansard roof was stripped to its wooden deck and a new copper roof was installed using the same traditional materials, techniques and assemblies as the 1922 roof. Vegetal ornamentation in moulded copper that decorated the historic roof was recreated using plaster casts taken from original elements. The central campanile, an ornate thirty foot tower in moulded and sheet copper, was rebuilt in a workshop from the original architectural drawings and then lifted into place by a crane. Restoration of the limestone masonry was complicated by the effects of the 1922 fire. The original limestone walls survived the fire but calcination rendered them brittle and difficult to restore.
In order to mitigate the impact of three years of construction on a public building in continuous use, a canvas printed with a full scale photograph of the building was installed over the scaffolding. A common practice in European cities, this was the first time this strategy was employed in Canada.
The project is the recipient of numerous distinctions, including the OAQ Award of Excellence, the North American Copper in Architecture (New York) and the AMCQ Award of excellence.
Official name of the project: Montreal City Hall
Type of project: Institutional
Location: 275 Rue Notre-Dame Est, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Client: City of Montreal
Project manager: Richard de la Riva
Design architect: Richard de la Riva
Project team: Marie-Élaine Gibeault, Brigitte Boudreau, Alexandre Cassiani, Julie Marchand
and Suzanne Gagnon
Structural engineer: NCK
Mechanical-electrical engineer: Pageau Morel
Budget: 13 300 000 $CA
Area of project: 70 000 ft2 / 6 500 m2 (facades and roof)
Project end date: 2011
Awards: 2013 OAQ Award of Excellence in Architecture, Restoration
2012 North American Copper in Architecture Award, Restoration
2011 AMCQ Award of Excellence
Affleck de la Riva
Founded in 1995 by Gavin Affleck and Richard de la Riva and based in Montreal, Canada, Affleck de la Riva Architects believe that quality environmental design is an agent of social change and a key element in fostering citizenship, social equity, and healthy lifestyles. The firm provides services for the design and construction of institutional, commercial and residential projects and has also developed specific expertise in urban design and the restoration of historic structures.
For more than twenty years, through a wide range and scale of projects including research, competitions, and built work, Affleck de la Riva has been exploring the potential of history and landscape to generate contemporary architecture. An interest in the craft-based traditions of noble materials has led to a number of building restoration commissions, including several important historic monuments. One cannot build contemporary architecture without having assimilating the lessons of the past.
The quality of Affleck de la Riva’s work has been recognized by numerous international publications (France, England, United States, Spain, China, Romania, South Korea, Turkey, etc.) and invitations to lecture in Europe and across North America. The firm is the recipient of more than a dozen professional distinctions including first prize awards in three open architectural competitions, a Governor General of Canada Award, two Awards of Excellence from the Order of Architects of Quebec, and an Award of Excellence from the Canadian Architect magazine.
Gavin Affleck and Richard de la Riva are active members of Canada’s architectural community. They have taught at schools of architecture across the country and contributed to numerous committees and organisations.