The remodelling of the corporate head office of the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) at Place Ville Marie by Atelier TAG and Jodoin Lamarre Pratte architectes underline the great potential and richness of Montreal’s modern architectural heritage. From a sustainability perspective, the project aims to innovate in its response to changes in work patterns linked to new technologies, and with an eye to growing preoccupation for the well-being of workers. Located in the iconic tower of I.M. Pei since 1994,  BDC wanted to regroup the 1 000 employees of its head office, dispersed across adjacent buildings, under one roof. The BDC now occupies more than 16000sqm. The proposed architectural concept for the workspace presents an innovative socio-spatial model in response to the emerging needs of a new generation of knowledge workers. The first stage of the project confirmed the potential of the redevelopment of several floors of the 1968, tower and consolidated BDC’s desire to respond responsively to the growing urban ecological challenges of the 21st century.

A legacy of the modern period, office towers are typically composed of a series of horizontal spaces with little inter-floor connection. The deployment of the BDC on seven levels is an opportunity to propose an alternative system that defines spacious, bright, and vertically interconnected collaborative workspaces. By introducing double-height spaces and internal stair connections, employees are reunited through a vertical axis that becomes the daily mode of travel, connects different departments, and supports various social activities. Orchestrated as a socio-spatial device, the new architectural staircase becomes the geographic, social, and symbolic heart of the BDC. As a place of gathering and chance encounters, the staircase unfolds from floor to floor and anchors programmatic elements specific to each department. It changes the sociability of departments according to their location in the tower, moving from a more public program on the ground floor to spaces suitable for concentrated work on the 6th floor.

The architectural concept embodies the commercial competitiveness of BDC, for which the well-being of its employees is the real engine of its productivity and growth. The definition of a socio-spatial structure based on different degrees of interpersonal interactivity allows everyone to navigate between fortuitous exchanges and formal meetings by department, group, or individual work. The project focuses on spatial transparency, immersion in a cityscape rich in natural (St. Lawrence River and Mount Royal) and urban landmarks, and the use of symbolically significant Canadian materials such as maple and aluminum to ensure both the durability and the perennity of the design.

Structured in five phases of construction, this complex project was carried out in a dense urban context while remaining in function. It represents an exemplary collaboration between the tenant, to whom the project is addressed, the owner, responsible for the integrity of its facilities, and the team of architects. The latter proposed a reversible project, respectful of modern heritage and reflecting the values of BDC, for which LEED Gold certification was obtained.

Photo credit: P. Karwowski