By Yann Fortier
Marie Pier Germain, Regional Director and Director of Hotel Design at Germain Hotels, is especially proud of the work the teams did in creating the all-new Montréal experience. It’s clear that the company’s most significant facelift in its history had great results… more like extraordinary results!
A larger restaurant, a new bar-lounge, a light-filled gym, six new storeys, a renovated terrace, and lobby… We can really only take in the extent of the changes by wandering through the spaces, noting the new furniture and the nods to Expo 67. What is particularly impressive is that the amazing outcome stems from work orchestrated by a crew of talented professionals.
A model integrating architecture and design
Originally home to Québec’s professional order of engineers, the building inaugurated in 1967 was transformed into Hôtel Le Germain in 1999. Twenty years later, after remaining closed for one full year, the reopened hotel is an astounding model integrating architecture and design.
“It still has the Germain signature,” reassures Marie Pier Germain, which is reflected “in the modern style and lavish comfort, but also in the balance between our personality and the experience we want to promote.”
Right from the start, we’re dazzled by the rooms’ brightness, noticing how transparent this chair is, the back-to-the-future curve over there, and the sumptuous ornamental carpet under foot. The timeless update is also intended to “take our guests on a journey, which is part of our team’s mission,” underscores Marie Pier.
A timeless destination
As soon as the model room was ready, just as many people from the generations who experienced the electric creativity of the late ’60s as from younger groups fell in love with the new version, which now boasts 136 rooms, junior suites, and two huge suites that provide all the comfort and advantages of a luxury apartment.
Marie Pier Germain talks about the superb second-floor Le Boulevardier restaurant with just as much enthusiasm. And for a more intimate experience, the Flâneur restobar, connected to the lobby, is perfect for a glass of bubbly, a snack, or some oysters. In summer, the new-and-improved outdoor terrace promises special moments.
The prestigious hotel on Mansfield Street is also bound to become a popular destination among downtown business clientele. “The overall services and experience—from breakfast and lunch to the evening hours—provide the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the hotel as a welcoming and pleasant place for discussion.”
The impressive loyalty between Germain Hotels and its clients is comparable to the link that has existed with LEMAYMICHAUD architects for the past 25 years. “We’ve designed all the hotels the group has created,” recalls Louise Dupont, partner at the architecture and design firm, which was founded in 1979.
The newly updated Montréal hotel was no exception in this trusting relationship. “What’s extraordinary about the Germain family is that they are very open to ideas and are willing to push boundaries, without straying from what makes each establishment special.”
The current narrative of Le Germain Hotel Montreal was first applied to the room design before being subtly articulated in the lounging and meeting spaces on all floors. Yet “bringing change while conserving the feel and experience expected by guests who were already attached to the hotel was quite a challenge,” admits Louise Dupont.
The overall result is a thrill for the senses, particularly with the focus on local artists, which entices the eye. “We’re proud of having been able to successfully transform the space while respecting the building itself.” And that is how new chapters of epic stories are written.
In the eyes of Roger La Roche
Roger La Roche was 13 years old (!) when he was hired to cook at a concession stand at Expo 67. “I left school in April, with permission from the principal. He told me I would learn more than I could in 10 years in the classroom!”
The young Roger La Roche took full advantage of “the best student job in the world,” spending his free time doing what he really wanted to do, which was photograph the event. “I spent more than half my pay on it!”
Throughout those exciting months, he documented, framed, and contextualized the action unfolding in front of his lens. Fifty years later, his work has been recognized and exhibited, notably in the former pavilion of the United States, which is now the Biosphère. It’s a fitting outcome for this environmental science professor, who, since his retirement, is deepening the endless source of inspiration and transformation that was Expo 67.
A walking encyclopedia of facts and tales, Roger La Roche has also left his stamp in the new Le Germain Hotel Montreal, in his photographs that appear in a mosaic of iconographic images in every bathroom in the hotel.
“The Germain’s friendly attitude is linked to Expo 67: the Germain takes care of its clients, and, since 1967, Montréal has been taking care of its visitors.”
Using beauty to enhance experience
Zébulon Perron raises bar and restaurant design to an art form. His faultless path—a melding of his vision with the ideas of Germain Hotels and the LEMAYMICHAUD architects—led to glorious strokes of creativity. by Yann Fortier
The designer was particularly in tune with the Expo 67 theme permeating the new Le Germain Hotel Montreal experience: “It was an exciting time in our history. My parents experienced it by working at the site. They even met there.” He reminds us that even if this somewhat mythical event symbolized openness to the world, “it was also rich in art and design.”
Another spark of inspiration was the building the hotel is located in. “It’s a brutalist construction that echoes the period. That’s where we got the idea to honour the building, without distorting its roots.” The result reflects the fine balance between his understanding of a time period and his modern vision that’s impervious to trends. Zébulon Perron conveys contrasts, and juxtaposes natural materials such as velvet, leather, wood, and marble.
In the lobby, the intimate bar inspires conviviality. “Before aestheticism and execution, we need to create spaces where people feel good.” The new stairway to Le Boulevardier restaurant gives us a look at the wine cellar and guides us to the very centre of the space on the next floor. The panoramic effect is breathtaking: the geometry highlighted by the black ceiling, the light floor, the placement of the mirrors around the open kitchen where the team can be seen working, the windows, with an elusive perspective of the city… A random, rare glow comes from Président-Kennedy Avenue, rolling out like a carpet all the way to the hotel’s foundation.
Whether you’re a tourist or a local seeking a special destination in downtown Montréal, this will become a favourite, because the pleasure only continues as you open the menu.