Twenty + Change: NÓS, Montreal, Quebec
Their multi-sensory approach leads the duo to create innovative spaces with strong experiential qualities.
Gil Hardy and Charles Laurence Proulx met when they were architecture students at the University of Montreal. Their love for music brought them to work together outside of school. After completing a multi-disciplinary music-and-architecture installation, the pair continued to enter—and win—installation competitions together, while still working full time for other firms. “At some point, it was just too much work outside of our official jobs,” Hardy says. “So we had to make a choice.” They launched NÓS in 2016, when both were in their late 20s.
Their multi-sensory approach leads the duo to create innovative spaces with strong experiential qualities. Seeing people use a space and make it their own brings both architects a sense of pride, Hardy says. “It’s the result of many years of work, and it’s very special.”
This passion translates into the attention that goes into every detail of their projects—as well as into the makeup of their firm itself. Early on, Hardy and Proulx identified their preference for working in small, collaborative environments. “We found that if we wanted to be innovative in our projects, we also needed to be innovative in the way we structured the office and the work,” says Proulx.
Today, NÓS—named from the latin word for “we” or “us”—is a multidisciplinary team of 15 people that includes architects as well as professional artists from various disciplines and cultural backgrounds. An agile organizational structure allows them to take on projects as large as Esplanade Cartier, a 14-storey mixed-use tower in the Sainte-Marie district of downtown Montreal.
Just as in their art installations, NÓS strives for this larger-scale project to “give people flexibility in the way that they live in a building—it’s not all fixed,” Proulx says. “We tried to propose a different approach to living,” Hardy adds, noting that the design is part of a pedestrian-centric neighbourhood plan, which includes amenities like open-air cinemas, temporary art exhibits, and a children’s garden. The design of the tower references the surrounding urban fabric, with features such as winding staircases to access certain units, views of the Jacques Cartier Bridge from multiple angles, and industrial elements on the façades.
For both Hardy and Proulx, it’s key to have a holistic vision and integrate buildings into their existing environment. Instead of thinking of buildings as objects in the city, Proulx says, “it’s important to see architecture as the city. A work of architecture is a form that makes sense in a context with its own contemporary expression—and that makes sense with a certain urban logic.”
This profile is part of our August 2021 feature story, Twenty + Change: Emerging Talent.