The Montreal neighbourhood of Villeray is a quirky collage of textures, colours, and cultures. The eclectic nature of the street frontage and laneway façades characterize the townscape, with diversity in materials, forms, and assemblies. Villeray is a densely populated neighbourhood composed of working-class households, with 20% of the residents living in poverty. The scarcity of vacant land is a well-known issue and community space is limited. With low rents, dense typologies, and excellent proximity to services and transportation, the neighbourhood is unsurprisingly confronted with gentrification.

Villeray also has a long history of social activism. Twenty-three community groups are at the heart of social development and community life in Villeray, and yet they are usually the most under-funded sector. In 2020, a major community hub at the Lajeunesse Centre has closed its doors.

This thesis explores ways to bring back agency and ownership to the residents of Villeray and allow them to re-appropriate their neighbourhood’s everyday space.

The urban policy shift proposed aims to create a circular mechanism that will bring back property ownership to the residents of Villeray while reinvesting the economic benefits to generate social capital. Community groups become agents of liaison between the neighbourhood owners and big buyers through the sale of air space rights. The Maison Citoyenne stands as one example of this re-appropriation of the everyday space by the community.

The façades that shape the new Maison Citoyenne are a reflection of the eclectic nature of the neighbourhood’s townscape. The new additions contrast with the existing buildings, while the interior reads as one. The program caters to existing social needs and aims to amplify the general collective experience. For example, the ground floor is oriented around an intimate courtyard accessible from the lane and the high street through a passage. Its role as circulation and gathering space is repeated throughout the building with the presence of half-landings, main halls and gathering interior and exterior spaces.

Jill Bambury
Richard Evans
Christopher MacDonald [CHAIR]