By Kimberley Mok
The ubiquitous mansard roofs* of Montréal have always fascinated me. From the monumental to the ordinary vernacular, these distinctive roofs inspired by the once-popular Second Empire** style give the built surface a tactile depth to the multi-layered character of the city. Some stand rotting on dilapidated corners, now only silent witnesses to better times. On other streets they are painted in proud colours, basking in the rosy light of another setting sun, somehow opening onto other dimensions of imaginations about the city.
*A Mansard or Mansard roof: a style of hip roof characterized by two slopes on each of its four sides with the lower slope being much steeper, almost a vertical wall, while the upper slope, usually not visible from the ground, is pitched at the minimum needed to shed water. This form makes maximum use of the interior space of the attic and is considered a practical form for adding a storey to an existing building. Often the decorative potential of the Mansard is exploited through the use of convex or concave curvature and with elaborate dormer window surrounds.
**Second Empire: an architectural style that was popular during the Victorian era, reaching its zenith between 1865 and 1880, and so named for the “French” elements in vogue during the era of the Second French Empire. In France, a significant variation is sometimes called the Napoleon III style. (Source: Wikipedia)