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Award of Excellence: Unity 2

A condominium project remains sensitive to the scale and detailing of a historically significant sister building in Montreal's Paper Hill district.

December 1, 2003
by Canadian Architect

Montreal, Quebec
Atelier Big City

As the second phase of a condo development that began with the renovations and restoration of the first historic Unity building, the Unity 2 project was also once surrounded by the area’s paper and printing operations. The original Unity building of Montreal’s Paper Hill area is now classified as an historic monument and as a result the Unity 2 building is a response to the overall scale and detailing of the original. On the rue Saint-Alexandre elevation, opacity, translucence and transparency are choreographed through the architects’ use of brick, glazing and Solera translucent insulation. An illuminated cornice will cap the roofline and the middle faade zone will be developed as a masonry and glazed screen, evocative of 19th century daylight factories.

The Unity 2 condominium complex will complete an urban block and establish a new semi-public courtyard. The new courtyard will serve as a point of entry for several townhouse-style apartments in Unity 2 and provide thousands of area office workers with additional public space. The building will rise to 14 storeys on rue Saint-Alexandre and 12 storeys on rue Viger. Some units in both Unity buildings will have entrances to the exterior courtyard.

The double-loaded corridor is jettisoned as an organizational device in favour of the two-floor “flo-thru” apartment. The configuration provides both spatial variety and ecological benefits with ventilation and lighting. Double-height glazed “winter gardens” in the two-storey units allow the development of individual interior gardens for each unit and allow natural light to reach deep into each unit’s interior.

Ecological features include: a green covered area in 50% of the courtyard space consisting of native plant species; gas-filled window assemblies with low-e coatings; half the exterior glazing will use Solera translucent insulation; and ceramic-free recycled glass or quarry tile with a minimum of 17% post-industrial waste for tiles in the bathrooms and front entry.

Boutin: This project is an inspired example of how market housing can be generous both in its development of housing types, and as an extension of architecture’s responsibility to the urban fabric and the public realm. It is this balance that will ultimately benefit both the inhabitants of the building, given the opportunity of being intimately embedded within the public space of the city, and those whose lives unfold nearby, with the ability of sharing public space that is intensified with a density of occupation. The sectional development of the house types, which give a nod to Le Corbusier, is particularized by the garden spaces appropriate for a winter city.

Rosenberg: The faades are wonderfully playful. These condominiums share a lot of the better qualities that are normally only found in houses natural light, cross ventilation, a public address and private space.

Sherman: This project sets a new precedent for the livability of high density urban housing. Both the flo-thru townhouse units and the carefully worked out fenestration system that creates an interestingly irregular rhythm to the facades, added to the interplay of solid, translucent and transparent panels, make this project noteworthy.

Ecological Features

1. U2 is re-using an existing foundation and parking structure.

There will be no new excavation for this project. Newly poured concrete will replace some Portland cement with fly ash. The use of reusable corrugated steel form work will reduce the total amount of concrete used in the project and eliminate additional finishing materials.

2. The courtyard will be 50% green covered (plant species native to region).

The remaining courtyard surface will use rot-resistant wood cedar decking.

3. Large areas of St. Alexandre and Viger faades will use brick.

4. Bamboo or palm wood flooring.

5. All glazing will have low-e coatings between interior and exterior panes of glass with argon or krypton gas between the panes.

6. Anodized metal window frames will be high performance with thermal breaks.

7. 50% of exterior glazing will be Solera translucent insulation.

8. Gyproc will be CGC-.5* synthetic using recycled content.

9. Entry hall and bathroom tiling for individual apartments will be either ceramic-free recycled glass tile or Quarry tile with a minimum of 17% post-industrial waste.

10. Low-VOC paint products will be specified.

11. 90% of the apartments in UP2 make extensive use of natural day lighting and cross ventilation.

Client: Les Dveloppements d’Arcy Mcgee Lte

Architects: Atelier Big City (Cormier, Cohen, Davies, architectes)

Architect team: Randy Cohen, Anne Cormier, Howard Davies, Pierre Gendron, Patrick Morand, Thierry Beaudoin, Patrick-Hugh Tiernam, Lauren Abrahams, Elizabeth Bouchard, Oliver Schanz

Structural: Dahl, Marzin Inc.

Mechanical/Electrical: Blondin Fortin Inc.

Envelope Consultant: Jacques Benmussa, architecte

Code: Le Groupe CSB

Specifications: Paul Cartier, architecte

Acoustical Consultants: PN Inc.

Contractor: Les Dveloppements d’Arcy Mcgee Lte

Area: 11,000 m2

Budget: n/a

Completion: Fall 2004




Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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