MONTREAL – An abandoned bank may not be the obvious choice for a trendy co-working space. For Canadian outfit Crew, however, the peculiar location gave the young collective an opportunity to establish itself among Montreal’s growing start-up scene. Situated on Saint Jacques Street in Old Montreal, the city’s historical district, the former Royal Bank of Canada vacated its headquarters in 2010, after nearly a century of occupancy. At a height of 119 m, the office tower was the tallest building in the British Empire when it was erected in the 1920s. Nearly six years after falling into disuse, the heritage building reopened its doors this year to welcome Crew Collective 360.
The project combines private Crew offices with members-only workspaces and a café – in new digs that are anything but understated. Standing catty-cornered from Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica, whose Gothic Revival architecture refers to that of the famous grande dame in Paris, the communal enterprise is a feast for the eye. Its extravagant 1,115-sqm interior features a marble inlay floor, ornate mouldings and vaulted ceilings that soar to a height of 15 m. Shimmering crystal chandeliers and decadent gold and bronze detailing add to the dazzling spectacle.
The building’s listed status meant that local architect Henri Cleinge had to leave the original elements intact. The aim, he says, was ‘a contemporary project that would create a kind of identity for the Crew offices, while preserving the character of the neoclassical shell’. To do so, he used existing elements to his advantage. In the café, erstwhile teller counters separate the eat-and-drink area from private offices for permanent employees, where rows of minimalist workstations and cubicles share the space with gleaming brass-clad conference rooms that allude to the opulent surroundings. ‘We didn’t want to overpower the existing building,’ says Cleinge, ‘but to highlight its remarkable craft with a discreet design intervention.’