Linking Up: Link Apartments, Montreal, Quebec

A new Montreal building offers a fresh take on the age-old apartment block.

Photo by Adrien Williams


In the west end of downtown Montreal, an area densely packed with residential highrises, the appearance of a new apartment tower is not usually a cause for fanfare. But Link, a building designed by ACDF Architecture for developer Brivia Group, sets itself apart with a playful design that is carefully calibrated to stand out, while fitting in.

“It’s an awkward context,” says ACDF principal Maxime-Alexis Frappier, noting how the street is relatively narrow for the height of its buildings, and buried in the middle of a densely packed downtown neighbourhood. Two Victorian townhouses, at the base of the building, were remnant from a century ago, when the neighbourhood was named the Quartier des Grand Jardins for its villas and many religious institutions with large, verdant, grounds. In the 1950s and 60s, swaths of the area’s fabric of Victorian homes were demolished to make way for brutalist office and apartment towers. Now, it’s one of the city’s most densely populated areas, including a substantial number of students who attend nearby colleges and universities. 

ACDF’s client had originally planned to demolish the debilitated rowhouses on their site, too—they had no heritage designation, and constructing from a tabula rasa is much easier—but Frappier and his team argued for saving them. “The street has nothing else, we needed to find a way to keep it,” says Frappier. He knew that retaining only the front elevations to form the building’s entrance, as his design proposed, would mean facing accusations of facadism—but, he reasoned, “for most citizens, they are really glad if you can keep a portion [of the historic fabric], and it contributes to the street life.”

Above the rehabilitated façades, ACDF’s design continues to pay homage to the area’s rich history. The tower is a quilt of openings, shaped as archways, gables, and rectangular dormers to reference the shapes that characterized the area’s historic homes. Some of these are windows, while others are enclosed balconies for the building’s 122 dwellings. The composition is presented as a work of art, framed by a dark granite surround.

A variety of grey tones are chosen for the precast concrete façade—a dark grey that matches the heritage slate roofs, a lighter grey to tie the building in with the neighbouring concrete towers, and a white that reflects light back into the narrow street. From the street, the patterned façade lends a whimsical touch to the neighbourhood. The shaped openings screen the clutter that often accumulates on balconies, while also affording additional privacy to residents.

The name of the development—Link—is a riff on Rue Lincoln, where the development is located. It also refers to the developer’s plan for the rental units, which includes the option to rent a single room in a three-bedroom apartment as an affordability measure for the area’s students. The architecture adds to the analogy, linking between the area’s past and present.