Azure - - CONTENTS - WORDS _Austin Mac­don­ald PHO­TO­GRAPHS _A­drien Wil­liams

Sid Lee’s crown­ing achieve­ment atop a land­mark Mon­treal ho­tel

In the ex­pe­ri­ence econ­omy, peo­ple want less stuff and more In­sta­gram mo­ments – or so the con­ven­tional wis­dom goes. What­ever the case, Sid Lee Ar­chi­tec­ture’s com­plete repo­si­tion­ing of Mon­treal’s Fair­mont The Queen El­iz­a­beth Ho­tel is a mas­ter­stroke of ex­pe­ri­en­tial ar­chi­tec­ture. Best known as the hip­pie land­mark where John and Yoko spent a week in bed, the newly re­vamped lux­ury and busi­ness des­ti­na­tion now in­cludes a lively, amenity-filled lobby, a trio of stylish food and drink des­ti­na­tions and, as of this year, Es­pace C2, a 220-per­son, rooftop event space that is the prop­erty’s lit­eral crown jewel.

In a com­plete re­think of the ho­tel’s up­per­most reaches – pre­vi­ously ded­i­cated to ex­clu­sive Fair­mont Gold suites – the ho­tel’s own­ers, op­er­a­tors and ar­chi­tects sought to make the space more egal­i­tar­ian by open­ing it for hire by any­one. “We thought it would be spe­cial for the ho­tel to have a quasi-pub­lic rooftop space that peo­ple could rent and ac­cess for events,” says Jean Pel­land, se­nior part­ner at Sid Lee. “Con­sid­er­ing the amaz­ing views, it was more ex­cit­ing to build this type of venue, rather than some­thing for a se­lect few.”

Es­pace C2 is a ter­race-wrapped, dou­ble-height glass cube topped with a dra­matic but­ter­fly roof. Hous­ing a

290-square-me­tre au­di­to­rium, the fa­cil­ity is as stun­ning as it was struc­turally in­ten­sive to com­plete. The ar­chi­tects punc­tured the ho­tel’s ex­ist­ing roof to cre­ate a new vol­ume with the nec­es­sary ceil­ing height (and me­chan­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture) to ac­com­mo­date a va­ri­ety of events, from wed­dings to cor­po­rate con­fer­ences to elab­o­rate cel­e­bra­tions de­signed to im­press clients. The main in­spi­ra­tion for the flex­i­bil­ity of the space was Sid Lee’s own an­nual C2 cre­ative con­fer­ence: a unique net­work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that in­cludes team-build­ing work­shops where par­tic­i­pants sit in chairs sus­pended from the ceil­ing, whim­si­cal “labs” where at­ten­dees as­sem­ble gi­ant layer cakes, and the odd cir­cus per­for­mance thrown in for good mea­sure.

In­side the venue, built-in fea­tures at ei­ther end of the floor plan rise into the struc­ture’s soar­ing wings, echo­ing the an­gles of the roofline over­head. A grand­stand as­cends into the glass cube at one end of the space, while the op­po­site side is an­chored by a stage and a three-by-six-me­tre LED screen. The au­di­to­rium’s but­tressed col­umns con­nect with the orig­i­nal build­ing’s struc­ture, en­abling the glass cube’s great­est feat of dar­ing: the float­ing ef­fect of the roof.

Pre-func­tion and break­out rooms book­end the open main space, which is eas­ily re­con­fig­ured: A mod­u­lar sys­tem of cop­per mesh cur­tains di­vides the room into smaller spa­ces, while the mid­dle sec­tion of the grand­stand can be re­tracted to open up the floor. Given the pared-down aes­thetic, a lot of the rooftop venue’s wow fac­tor re­sides in its highly In­sta­gram­able lo­ca­tion atop the Queen El­iz­a­beth, the birth­place of the Fair­mont’s sig­na­ture Gold ac­com­mo­da­tions. Al­ready be­ing touted as a pro­to­type, Es­pace C2 is poised to fol­low in its pre­de­ces­sor’s foot­steps – or foot­print, as it were – and be­come yet an­other trade­mark space. si­dleearchi­tec­

A re­tractable grand­stand and mod­u­lar cur­tain sys­tem al­low the space to be eas­ily re­con­fig­ured to suit any event.

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