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Twenty + Change: ADHOC architectes

“We always ask ourselves, ‘Is this going to be fun?’ If there’s any doubt, we don’t take the project.”

In L’Artisan, a development in Montreal’s garment district, different brick patterns are deployed to create a textile-like façade, enveloping a warm, wood-accented interior. Photo by Maxime Brouillet

“We always ask ourselves, ‘Is this going to be fun?’ If there’s any doubt, we don’t take the project.” With all seriousness, François Martineau, a.k.a. Frank, explains that enjoyment is a necessary component of his firm’s ability to attract business. “Clients come to us for the personality of our staff,” says the co-lead of Montreal-based studio ADHOC architectes. His partner in fun, Jean-François St-Onge, a.k.a. Jeff, agrees. “If the people on our team are happy and feel ownership of the projects they’re working on, the clients can sense their passion. That comes across in their work.”

In L’Artisan, a development in Montreal’s garment district, different brick patterns are deployed to create a textile-like façade, enveloping a warm, wood-accented interior. Photo by Maxime Brouillet

That work ranges from store installations and pop-up dining venues, to office interiors and city-block-sized housing developments. But you need more than good times to create winning results—and ADHOC has shown they have what it takes, with a number of design awards to their credit, as well as punchy projects from a 100-metre-long communal dining table created last summer for a downtown Montreal park, to multi-unit courtyard buildings like La Geode.

Prenez Place! was a 100-metre-long outdoor table in downtown Montreal, designed to encourage outdoor socializing during the pandemic. Photo by Raphael Thibodeau

The contagious enthusiasm of Martineau and St-Onge is also what attracts talent, along with the promise of an energetic work environment, with many types and sizes of projects, as hinted at in the firm’s name. “Ad hoc,” meaning “for this,” shows clients and prospective staff alike that the team is agile, versatile and dynamic.

Prenez Place! was a 100-metre-long outdoor table in downtown Montreal, designed to encourage outdoor socializing during the pandemic. Photo by Robert Thibodeau

St-Onge describes himself as a conceptual thinker, while Martineau calls himself the tech guy. Their skills complement each other, ensuring that form and function are equally met for each design scheme. At the beginning of ADHOC’s existence—the two principals met and started collaborating in school, where they also hatched the idea for the firm, which they went on to found in 2014—they focused on infill architecture. Honing their skills on these smaller plans allowed them to forge relationships with the city and with developers, while at the same time figuring out how to best merge, find and retain different talents.

La Geode groups six residential units of different sizes around an interior courtyard inspired by a crystal. Photo by Adrian Williams
Le Jardinier maximizes connections to the outdoors with deep balconies in front and garden plots behind. Photo by Maxime Brouillet

Today, the number of employees stands at 25, and that, says St-Onge, feels like the optimal size. “We have enough people to be able to act like a big firm, taking on major projects like the one under way in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve,” he says, referring to the 1,000-unit Canoë housing development in Montreal’s east end, which the firm is designing in consortium with Aedifica. “But it’s important to also take on small, shorter-term jobs, so that the team isn’t only working on, say, a multi-year 50-storey tower,” adds Martineau. “It’s necessary to feed the employees’ need for creativity and connection to site.” And when the creative juices are flowing, the good times are rolling.

This profile is part of our August 2021 feature story: Twenty + Change: Emerging Talent

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