Dezeen Magazine

Henri Cleinge adapts grand Montreal bank for Crew Offices and Cafe

A former bank in the historic centre of Montreal has been transformed into an office for a tech start-up and a cafe for freelance workers by local architect Henri Cleinge.

The Crew Offices and Cafe are located in the city's old Royal Bank, built in 1926 on Rue St-Jacques.

Crew Offices and Café by Henri Cleinge

Cleinge's brief was to create a space for both Crew Collective employees and members of the public, with a design that was contemporary and function but sat well within the decorative surroundings.

"The first design challenge originated from the client's requirements – how to elaborate an architectural relationship and construct boundaries between the various program functions," said Cleinge.

Crew Offices and Café by Henri Cleinge

"The second challenge became a deeper questioning on how to approach design in the context of a heritage building."

Spread across 12,000 square feet (1,115 square metres), part of the office area is designated for Crew staff.

Crew Offices and Café by Henri Cleinge

Glass dividers separate these spaces from the areas for hot-deskers, but are designed to encourage interactions between the two camps.

"This environment was meant to create a flow and possible interactions between permanent and temporary workers, nurturing co-working in the tech community," said Cleinge, who previously built a house for himself in Montreal with concrete walls inside and out.

Crew Offices and Café by Henri Cleinge

Wi-Fi access and lockers for computers are provided for the short-term tenants, who can rent desks by the week or month, as well as casual visitors using the cafe for a couple of hours.

A line of conference rooms – which can be booked by anyone – is divided by internal partitions and clad in bronze-plated steel to match the ornate detailing of the high ceiling.

Crew Offices and Café by Henri Cleinge

Teller stands from the building's previous life had to remain, so they became a divider between the public cafe and more private workspaces.

The bank's marble floor, painted-plaster ceiling and custom brass light fixtures were all retained and restored.

Crew Offices and Café by Henri Cleinge

"The teller stands as well as the existing building shell offered a great design opportunity, as a rich and textured background; a testimony to another era, which could thrive with a new function redefining its purpose," the architect said.

The project was completed in May 2016 for $75 (£58) per square foot.

Crew Offices and Café by Henri Cleinge

Old banks are ideal for adaptive reuse, and other examples from around the world include a cultural venue in Chicago and a dental surgery in Porto.

Photography is by Adrien Williams.

Project credits:

Client: Crew Collective
Team: Henri Cleinge, Paulette Taillefer
Suppliers: Sistemalux, Lighting; Kastella, built-in cabinetry; Atelier B, concrete panels; De Gaspé, tables and movable furniture; Linea P, brass-plated panels; Techni-verre, glass partitions; Authentik, custom light fixtures above cafe counters