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Le Christin

Atelier Big City

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

March 2024


Anne Cormier (Project Architect), Randy Cohen, Howard Davies (Architects)


Fannie B. Yockell (Architecture team), Gabriel Tessier (Architecture team), Lisa Vo (Architecture team)


Société d'Habitation et de Développement de Montréal - SHDM


Atelier Big City


The Christin is a 114 units social housing project. It was designed according to establish a zone accommodating men living alone and a zone for people living in pairs, including women. The first zone includes 90 studios, the second is made up of 24 units (studios, one bedroom and two bedrooms). The two zones are separated near the elevator using a door system which controls access to the mixed zone while allowing passage to both exits. Each zone has dedicated outdoor spaces: a courtyard on the ground floor for men and a terrace on the second floor for the mixed population.

The main challenge presented by the project was to house the greatest number of people within the limits of city bylaws concerning building footprint, height, and units’ dimensions. To attain this goal, minimum size units were developed to house up to 138 persons on the 7700 square foot site, attaining the maximum FAR of 6 on 7 floors. Meanwhile great attention was given to natural lighting in the units and in the hallways: the windows are very large, and a curtain wall opens an entire section of the corridors to the outside.

The entire building respects the principles of universal design and demonstrates high energy performance exceeding current standards. Simulations have shown that it achieves an energy saving of 44.9%, and a reduction of 59.5% in GHGs compared to standards. The project was subjected to the review of several committees as it was replacing a significative building.


Located in the heart of Montreal’s downtown, an area which is severely lacking in affordable housing, and where itinerancy is widespread, The Christin is the largest project dedicated to the fight against homelessness in Quebec. The project was built by Montreal's housing corporation (SHDM) to expand community services that promote residential stability for the unhoused. Accueil Bonneau, a non-profit organization, manages the premises 24/7 to support people experiencing homelessness towards social reintegration and residential stability.

The building site was originally occupied by the Riga. This four-story building, dating from 1916, was notable as an early use of a reinforced concrete structure, however this very innovation led to it being demolished in 2019 due to its improper construction. The Riga had another remarkable characteristic: it offered small bachelor flats, an unusual typology for the «Quartier Latin» where C19 bourgeois houses dominated. With its 114 small units, The Christin’s typology echoes the spirit of the Riga.

The Christin is located on a very shallow urban block and, as a result, the building has two facades on two parallel streets. The main entrance is located on Christin Street, after which the building is named. On Savignac Street, a courtyard opening onto a second entrance is intended for the exclusive use of tenants who can store their bicycles there. To contribute to the liveliness of the streetscape, the ground floor houses the building's public meeting rooms and has individual gardens in front of each of the living units.


Although it was replacing a remarkable building, The Christin has known an extremely positive reception from the press for its architectural contribution to the immediate urban environment, and because it responds to the acute housing shortage for the homeless in Montreal. During its inauguration, the importance and interest of paying attention to the architecture of affordable housing was mentioned several times; rather than communicating the limited means of their inhabitants, such buildings must help enrich the urban environment and contribute to the comfort and pride of those who live in them.

Between The Christin’s original conception in 2018 and its opening in 2023, the client did modify the profile of the inhabitants to create an innovative model and allow a unique social mix. The tenants are not primarily single men, but also single women, couples, students, refugees, seniors, Indigenous people, and people from the LGBTQ2+ community. Furthermore, 20% of the housing is reserved for residents who do not require special support, thus offering a diverse and unique living environment.

Recently, Accueil Bonneau announced that it will participate in a significant research project to measure the impact of this model on the social reintegration of people with lived experience of homelessness. The research is led by Dr. Eric Latimer of McGill University. This research involving The Christin could be an important contribution to understanding the impact that an involved architectural design process can have had on the success of this model.

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