Vol de Nuit

Vol de Nuit

Alain Carle Architecte
Montreal, QC, Canada
Project Year
Raphael Thibodeau

Vol de Nuit

Alain Carle Architecte as Architects

VOL DE NUIT:  Redesign of an institution, redesign of an urban culture

The merchant’s urban project

This project is part of one merchant’s long and patient mission to reshape an area of the city: Boulevard Saint-Laurent (between Rue Sherbrooke and Avenue des Pins). This sector went through a major transformation of its infrastructure a few years ago, and the long period of work was dramatic for the merchants along the artery. An incredible number of businesses closed their doors and this sad event made headlines in all the local newspapers. 

Since then, this merchant has tried to "pick up the torch" from these predecessors and has invested his modest holdings intelligently in a few premises. Without being large-scale projects, they have generated great interest in the design and, over time, have become identifying places a new "urban culture” in this area, on the margin of a mass reappropriation by the university community, which has taken loosely structured occupancy. Its premises address both a clientele of local inhabitants and a more regional (and even international) clientele, in search of refined, "intelligent" and creative locations. Hence the creation of Big in Japan, the bar that followed it at the corner of Rachel and Saint-Laurent, and June Rose. Not all had the success he expected, but his fervour is unabated. He is taking root in this sector like a new Christopher Columbus of urban zones suffering from instability. 

In this perspective, the project’s developer called on our services with an almost crazy idea: revive an icon of Montréal night life: the Vol de Nuit bar at the corner of Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Rue Prince-Arthur. We perceived this street, also in need of redefinition for the neigbourhood’s residents, as a virtual "no man's land". The reshaping of a "historic" Montréal cultural site of the 70s as Vol de Nuit (once frequented by personalities like Pauline Julien and Gérald Godin) transformed this project into a true "strategic" project for us, with the aim, despite the modest scale of the intervention, of redefining the cultural value of this urban crossroads. 


A dream bar

The project aims at a local clientele rooted in the Milton-Parc neighbourhood and, by extension, in the Plateau Mont-Royal. Geared to a quality development, the new acquirer of the mythic Vol de Nuit, a true Seventies institution, wanted to offer a more refined location and liquor selection than the sector’s dark bars with banal and sometimes messy atmospheres... Our site enhancement strategy is based on an "inward looking" approach, offering a quality ambience rather than an invasive and generic intervention.

Based on a timeless aspect often detached from reality, the bar’s iconic aesthetics are pushed into a “surreal” retrenchment – place that both refers to a dreamlike imaginary world through a painter’s intervention, and to the cinematic universe of David Lynch.  The place thus is distinguished from a “trendy” approach, is rooted in the “long term” and establishes a more permanent address in the neighbourhood. Finally, it offers a place for neighbourhood residents, who have long repudiated the "messy" Saint-Laurent/Prince-Arthur locations, dedicated to a frenetic and unstable “Saturday night” clientele with very little urban connection... 

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Project Credits
The Danish Maritime Museum
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The Danish Maritime Museum

Helsingor, Denmark
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