Giving A Landmark New Life
After two years of intense renovations, Hotel Birks sets a new precedent for Montreal’s Phillips Square.
NEUF architect(e)s, one of the largest architecture and design firms in Canada, has completed two years of major renovations on Hotel Birks in Montreal.
The hotel was originally designed by Edward Maxwell, a renowned Montreal architect, in 1894 for Henry Birks’s jewelry store. Since then it has undergone a number of alterations and improvements that threatened its preservation. In 2016, the building was purchased by hotelier Jean Salette, who, with a team of professionals, wanted to restore the landmark to a luxury boutique hotel that celebrated its origins, preserved its prestige and came complete with a French brasserie.
NEUF architect(e)s was that team of professionals and, in collaboration with designer Nicole Vekemans, began restoring the building. The work undertaken has been done in a way that preserves the existing historical elements, while updating and rectifying known issues. The storefront windows, obstructed over time, were completely restored, and the interior elevator was relocated to better enhance the visual connection to the square.
The building’s upper floors were converted from office space to 132 new rooms, each of which has its own distinct qualities, and the top of the building is now home to a two-storey glass addition, which strives to evoke the essence of the original jewelry store. Improvements were made below ground, too, with disused mechanical rooms and vaults beneath the hotel converted into a spa.
“Giving life to this unique landmark that has been part of Montreal’s urban landscape for almost 125 years is an accomplishment we are very proud of,” says Marion Thiébaux of NEUF architect(e)s in a statement. “These major restoration efforts not only renew the building’s function, but also make it more accessible to the public.”
On the ground floor, a new restaurant has also opened. Titled Henri Brasserie Française, it was created by Salette in collaboration with l’Atelier Zébulon Perron and serves seasonal gourmet and comfort dishes inspired by the timeless traditions of French brasseries.
When the building originally opened as Henry Birks and Sons, it was one of the first businesses established around Phillips Square. Situated alongside Morgan’s department store, today known as Hudson’s Bay, and the city’s first art gallery, it was a square that set the standard for what was to come. Today, with renovations complete and the hotel rich with history, it not only reasserts its presence on the square locally, but acts as a new beacon for people on an international stage.