The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, one of Sherbrooke Street’s most recognizable landmarks, will soon be transformed with a $100 million renovation and expansion. Over the next two years, the number of hotel rooms will be reduced and new condominium units added in an effort to modernize the hotel’s offering. What might interest Montrealers, however, are the changes planned for the hotel’s exterior, which will include the construction of a new glass wing on the building’s west side as well as the addition of two floors to its roof.
Last week, the Globe and Mail looked at the history of the hotel:
The Ritz-Carlton, at the corner of Sherbrooke and Mountain Streets along Montreal’s Golden Square Mile, was designed by famed New York architectural firm Warren & Wetmore. An imposing neoclassical building with terra cotta trim, it was inspired by the architecture of Robert and James Adam.
It was the first hotel to bear the name Ritz-Carlton, (although it isn’t part of the global chain) and at the turn of the 20th century, it epitomized opulence. Swiss hotelier César Ritz allowed his name to be added to what was to be just the Carlton Hotel, but with a number of conditions: Every unit had to have a bathroom, there had to be a kitchen on each floor, 24-hour valet service, a concierge and a sweeping staircase so that guests (gowned ladies in particular) could make a grand entrance.
The Ritz-Carlton enjoyed many decades of prestige but by the 1950s it was showing its age. In 1957, a wing was added, and in 1970 the bedrooms were revamped.
It also shed some light on the motivation behind the makeover and the goal of its architects:
The new luxury residences and condo suites will form an inverted L-shaped, glass and stainless steel shell across the top and west side of the hotel building – an addition that will contrast to the imposing limestone and terra cotta exterior of the original.
“In doing this renovation, we didn’t just want to imitate the old style,” says Claude Provencher of Provencher Roy + associés, the lead architectural firm on the project.
“So often that leads to a banal, pale imitation, which, frankly, doesn’t respect the integrity of the original building. These faux add-ons tend to look awkward and we wanted to avoid that.
“We wanted to preserve the integrity of the original Ritz-Carlton and to that end, we have designed something that is subtle, elegant and delicate. The look inside the hotel, though, will have the same ambience as the original. We wouldn’t dream of tampering with that,” Mr. Provencher says.
The exterior stonework will be cleaned and the windows replaced, but the public spaces – the lobby, the Palm Court, the Oval Room and the popular Jardin du Ritz with its flowerbeds and duck pond – will remain much the same as before, albeit brought up to 21st century building standards.
As you’d expect with such an historically important building, heritage watchdogs and the city and provincial governments are keeping a close eye on the project. So far, there hasn’t been any public outcry against it, but if the discussion on the urban development forum mtlurb.com is any indication, not everyone likes the high-contrast approach taken by Provencher Roy.