Even a cursory look at Montreal architecture tells the story of the city’s unique history closely intertwined with French culture. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at 10 examples of popular architecture in Montreal to illustrate why the “Paris of North America” is a favourite among construction professionals. Our list is inspired by The Culture Trip.
Architecture In Montreal: 10 Renowned Examples
1. City Hall
Montreal’s City Hall is one of the most beautiful in Canada and is considered among one of the best depictions of Napoleon III-style architecture.
A large fire in 1922 gutted the structure’s interior, leaving only the outer walls standing. Architect Louis Parent led the reconstruction of the building which involved creating a new steel structure within the shell left standing. The city hall’s roof was inspired by Beaux-Arts architecture, a style originating in Paris.
Location: 275 Notre-Dame St E, Montreal, QC
Architects: Henri-Maurice Perrault and Alexander Cowper Hutchinson (Original), Louis Parent (reconstruction).
2. Notre-Dame Basilica
If you want to better learn about Montreal’s architectural influence, you’ll need to understand the city’s deep roots in French Catholicism. It is one of the most important examples of architecture highlighting the city’s religious ties.
Architecture experts hail the church’s interior as a Gothic Revival masterpiece with numerous ornate carvings. One of the church’s most stunning displays consists of stained glass windows telling the story of Montreal’s religious architecture. This is rare for stained glass windows in churches, which typically showcase biblical scenes.
Location: 110 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, QC
Architect: James O’Donnell
3. Olympic Stadium
As its name suggests, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium was constructed to host the international sporting event, which was held here in 1976. Since then, the facility has endured as one of Montreal’s most recognizable structures. Designed by Roger Taillibert, a French architect, it features a retractable roof with cables supported by what remains the world’s tallest inclined tower.
Taillibert, who died in 2019, described his work as the creating of “poems in concrete.” It’s not hard to see why, given just how beautiful the Olympic Stadium (forever a fixture of Montreal Brutalist architecture) is.
Location: 4141 Avenue Pierre-De Coubertin, Mercier-Hochelaga, Maisonneuve, Montreal, QC
Architect: Roger Taillibert
4. Sun Life Building
Even without knowing the Sun Life Building’s history, one gets a sense of its significance merely by glancing at its monumental design. It is a beautiful example of Fine Arts architecture built between 1913 and 1931.
It played a central role in World War II as the site of ‘Operation Fish,’ which saw Britain move its gold reserves from then war-torn Europe into a vault far below the Sun Life Building. The gold was transported in boxes labeled “fish” to avoid detection. There, the gold was sold off on the New York Stock Exchange to cover Britain’s war expenses.
Location: 1155 Rue Metcalfe, Ville-Marie Montreal, QC
Architect: Darling & Pearson
5. St. Joseph’s Oratory
St. Joseph’s Oratory bears the distinction of being one of Canada’s largest churches. It is a minor basilica and features one of the world’s largest church domes. The dome consists of two shells; one inner and one exterior, with a gap in between. The outer dome bears a structural resemblance to the Florence Cathedral, with eight arches, a lantern, a cross, and an octagonal drum.
Nestled atop Mount Royal’s Westmount Summit, St. Joseph’s Oratory is also one of the highest buildings in Montreal.
Location: 3800 Queen Mary Rd, Montreal, QC
Architect: Alphonse Venne, Lucien Parent, Dom Paul Bellot, and Dalbé Viau
7. Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral
Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral is a Baroque Revival structure befitting of its royal-sounding name. It is a highlight of Montreal’s best architecture thanks to its replication of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Its style represented a major break from the Gothic Revival style of architecture that was popular in Montreal at the time. As with many of Montreal’s great nest architecture, it was built in response to a tragedy. In this case, the burning down of Saint-Jacques Cathedral.
Location: 1085 Rue de la Cathédrale, Montréal, QC
Architect: Victor Bourgeau and Joseph Michaud
8. 1000 de la Gauchetiére
1000 de la Guachetiére is a postmodern structure and one of the tallest buildings in Montreal. It will likely remain that way, too, since buildings in Montreal are not permitted to rise beyond that height.
It’s a great stop on any Montreal architecture tour due to the building’s creative referencing of the older structures around it.
Location: 1000 de la Gauchetiére, Montreal, QC
Architect: Lemay & Associates, Dimakopoulos & Associates
9. Habitat 67
One of the most famous examples of Montreal’s brutalist architecture is Habitat 67, a mind-bending apartment complex designed by architect Moshe Safdie. Built in 1967, more than 50 million people flocked to see the building within six months of its debut at Expo 67.
Over time, Habitat 67’s commercial failure has become a blessing in disguise. Critics have noted that it failed to revolutionize affordable housing in the way Safdie intended. Still, it remains a one-of-a-kind apartment complex that helped Safdie launch his career.
Location: 2600 Av Pierre-Dupuy, Montreal, QC
Architect: Moshe Safdie
10. Montreal World Trade Centre
Many Montreal architecture guides refer to the city’s World Trade Centre as a “horizontal skyscraper.” Architects linked an entire city block of historic buildings using a glass canopy. This creates a large indoor village that allows visitors to observe some of Montreal’s most famous architecture all year-round. This impressive design was created by the firm Arcop.
Location: 747 Rue du Square-Victoria, Montreal, QCArchitect: Arcop