April 7, 2015
by Canadian Architect
Artopex, one of Quebec’s largest manufacturers of office furniture, commissioned Lemay to design its new showroom in the heart of historic Old Montreal. The project is located in the prestigious former headquarters of the Royal Bank of Canada. After sitting vacant for more than 25 years, the emblematic building has been completely revitalized and rethought in order to give Artopex a space that reflects its image and values.
The project aimed at more than displaying products: the goal was to communicate the manufacturer’s history and identity with a graphic and spatial narrative thread, with the ultimate objective of preserving memories and emphasizing the quality of its products. The idea of territory emerged as the central theme for the entire interior design concept.
Starting at the entrance, an uninterrupted ribbon of images of Quebec landscapes guides visitors through the different zones of the showroom, spread accross two basement levels. Quebec’s urban, industrial and natural landscapes translate Artopex’s commitment towards the community and the environment, two values at the core of the company’s culture. The pixellated treatment of the background images creates a defocused effect that directs the eye toward the product, making an original contribution to its display.
From the outset, the architects faced two major challenges: the front door is dwarfed by imposing Neoclassical columns, and the showroom’s basement location suffers from a shortage of natural light. In response to the first issue, an enormous LED-animated marquee draws the gaze and energizes the entrance with a variety of lighting effects. Addressing the second challenge, a large opening in the floor leads to oversized wooden stairs serving as a meeting place as well as a display space, while flooding the lower levels with natural light. The arrangement of the different zones, linked by lighting effects, creates several contrasting ambiances that enhance the visitor experience.
Now, the new Artopex showroom becomes a tool for creative product displays. Normally seen at the individual scale, here furniture is experienced in relation with the environment.
Founded in 1957 as an architectural firm, Lemay is currently a Canadian leader in integrated built environment design services, combining architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, urban design, interior design and branding in its multidisciplinary service offering. In 2014, Lemay greatly enhanced its talent pool by acquiring the three Quebec subsidiaries of Toronto-based IBI Group: DAA, Cardinal Hardy Architectes and Martin Marcotte/Architectes.
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