From “White Elephant” to New Elegance: Tour de Montreal, Canada

Session: Track F: Best Tall Building Award By Function: Residential/Hotel, Part 2 & Renovation Award

Joëlle BrodeurMélissa BélangerProject image

Joëlle Brodeur
Vice President, Infrastructure and Project Management, Parc Olympique

Mélissa Bélanger
Partner, Architect, Provencher Roy

Originally conceived as an icon of the 1976 Summer Olympics, the Montreal Tower was unfinished when the games began. Although it was finally inaugurated in 1987 and despite its architectural significance, the 14 floors of the tower, totaling more than 18,580 square meters, remained empty and unused for nearly 30 years. The Tower serves as an anchor for the suspension cables that support the roof of the Olympic Stadium. The observatory at the top of the Tower overlooking the Olympic Park, however, has always been open to the public and tourists. In 2015, renovations were undertaken to transform the tower into 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.

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