A building where everyone lives less at home? This is the bet taken up by two Montreal architects, in love with beautiful common spaces that inspire rapprochement.

This commitment to sharing and community life is felt from the very first steps in the Milhaus1, located very close to the new MIL campus of the University of Montreal (UdeM), in Outremont: instead of the usual hall impersonal entrance, there is a shared workspace bathed in the rays of the sun, thanks to the four completely glazed walls.

Seated at large wooden tables, perfect for individual or team work, residents work comfortably on their laptops, headphones screwed to their ears, as if they were in a public library.

Before their eyes spreads out a large garden placed in the center of the building, at the intersection of common spaces, such as a gymnasium, a community kitchen and, soon, shops, such as a café or a sandwich shop.

An ingenious luminous trench, made of transparent partitions and large windowed walls, also allows you to stay in touch with the animation of avenue Thérèse-Lavoie-Roux.

In short, all the reasons seem good to leave its nest. This impression is not accidental, confirms architect Sergio Morales, because the Milhaus complex — made up of three separate buildings — is part of the trend of reducing the size of apartments in favor of collective spaces.

“It’s an evolution as we have experienced in our workplaces where, at a certain time, everyone had their office closed. Today, workspaces are open; everyone has access to a wealth of common spaces,” notes Mr. Morales, who signs this project with his partner Stephan Chevalier.

“This transformation [of the residential building] seems to me a good thing, because it allows people to come out of isolation and live in a community,” adds the architect, whose team has won many awards. for his design of public buildings such as theatres, libraries and schools.

“It’s our first private project,” he says with a smile, standing in the entrance hall open to the city.

Doing everything to create a neighborhood life in this fragment of the city, which emerged from the lands of the former Canadian Pacific Railroad yard, is precisely the priority of the Outremont borough.

The goal of municipal planners is clear, says Morales: the architecture of the new neighborhood should respect the height of the surrounding older buildings, while creating an urban density that can create a sense of community. “In this regard, European models are naturally mentioned,” notes the Montreal architect, also a teacher at the University of Montreal.

This is how the architects Morales and Chevalier imagined three not very high buildings, built as close as possible to the sidewalk to densify the space, as in the old streets. At the same time, this approach has made it possible to recover the usual grassy surroundings “which do not seem to belong to anyone and which are not maintained by anyone” of apartment towers.

“We took over all that space to concentrate it in the interior gardens and then articulate the collective spaces around it. Basically, this project was made concrete by its voids, ”explains Mr. Morales.

When construction is complete, the complex’s 700 homes will accommodate a population of some 2,000 people.

Borough authorities are seeking to create a “new Outremont”, by focusing on materials such as steel, concrete and glass, in order to integrate the UdeM campus into the landscape, believes Mr. Morals.

Nevertheless, the two Montreal architects wanted to recall the rich railway memory of the place.

Thus, the horizontal white projections that run along the facades and mark the level of the planks of the Milhaus complex are inspired by the industrial construction techniques of the time, characterized in particular by the Van Horne warehouse.

“Back then, you built by pouring the slabs and columns, and then filling the spaces with something that was cheap. So we had fun with that language,” says Sergio Morales.

Decorative elements, such as atmospheric steel tubs, also evoke the railways of yesteryear. “This steel that rusts and that rust protects, it’s been used a lot in industry for its durability. We recovered these materials and these patterns. »

The choice of neutral colors also stands out for its sobriety and modesty. “We always think that the color of a project comes with the people, their objects, the greenery, etc. You create a discrete canvas on which life can take hold,” says Morales.