From “White Elephant” to New Elegance: Tour de Montreal, Canada
Session: F: Best Tall Building Award By Function: Residential/Hotel, Part 2 & Renovation Award
Executive Vice President - Infrastructure and Project Management, Parc Olympique
Partner, Architect, Provencher Roy
Originally intended as an icon of the 1976 Summer Olympics, the Tour de Montréal was unfinished when the games began. Despite its eventual opening in 1987, the tower long stood as a textbook example of a “white elephant”—an expensive-to-maintain structure that served little purpose. The tower anchors the cables that support the Olympic Stadium’s retractable roof. After its completion, the tower—despite its architectural significance—remained largely abandoned. The observatory overlooking the Olympic campus was still open to the public, but over 18,580 square meters of rentable space sat vacant for decades. In 2015, renovation efforts began, re-envisioning the tower as contemporary office space.
Advanced modeling and laser-scanning technology was used to design a solution that adapted the building to host financial offices while still preserving the heritage and look of the structure. The biggest challenge was the lack of natural lighting, crucial for any contemporary workplace. The original envelope was primarily composed of precast concrete panels pierced with thin vertical strips of windows. The renovations stripped away 60 percent of this façade, replacing it with a glass curtain wall. The project used a 3D model and point clouds of the envelope and floors, aiding early collision detection and helping resolve the complex façade geometries. The dramatic intervention at the façade was an efficient, cost-effective move that redefined how the tower functions. This inventive solution is a replicable model for renovations, one that proposes heritage structures can become—beyond museums or tourist sites—living parts of a city that benefit their communities.