By: Patricia McClintock
A new Canadian Pacific Hotel built in the Laurentians is the last “chateau” of this century Patricia McClintock & Associes Inc., a hospitality interior design firm based in Montreal, was given the challenge of planning and designing all the interiors of the new 317 room Chateau Mont-Tremblant, built by Intrawest and operated by Canadian Pacific Hotels and Resorts.
Complementing the hotel is a large and magnificent conference centre, as well as a beautifully designed retail area. Exactly one hundred years after the well-known Chateau Frontenac opened its doors to the public, a new chateau hotel has been built in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains. It was a most exciting and challenging project. Legends of Quebec
The theme developed for the interior design was based on the Legends of Quebec, of both French and Indian origin. It is an old Indian legend that gave the mountain its name, Mont Tremblant — the trembling mountain. The Indians called it Manitou-Ewitchi-Saga, the god of the wilderness.
When our firm was commissioned to design the interiors of this new hotel, it was on the premise of this intriguing story that we decided to further develop the Legend theme. The Algonquin Indians, the first to settle in the area, were also the first to form alliances with the French who were referred to at that time as the “coureur des bois”. These people transmitted their history and their knowledge of nature in the form of oral recitation.
These were the legends that dealt with human activities associated with magico-religious phenomena. The legends of the wilderness and the mythical stories were passed on, and later mingled with those of the “habitants”, the first French Canadians to colonize the Laurentians around 1850.
At that time, the government developed the road north to the Laurentians in an attempt to stop French Canadian migration to the U.S. The local legends explained a philosophy of the life that followed.
In the early part of the 20th century, it was the turn of the Americans to develop the area. Families came to the region to further develop the existing marvellous natural resources for recreational purposes.
More recently, in the last seven years, Intrawest — a Vancouver-based corporation — took over the task of continuing in these families’ traditions and are presently creating a ski and golf resort destined for an international reputation.
The hotel Chateau Mont-Tremblant in the overall development of the resort is a central and focal point acting as a catalyst for the village. It attracts guests and tourists, it markets the name of the village while fuelling many other commercial activities, and as such has had a strong impact on the local economy.
The legends, which are mystical and magical fables, explain a way of living, nurturing nature and set the tone of a regional culture very unique to the Province of Quebec.
The reasons that led us to select these icons of French Canadian culture as the basis of our design theme were numerous.
We wanted to develop a theme that befitted a world class destination resort in the nineties, while integrating with the beauty and the magnificence of the wilderness. We also wanted to give to the interior spaces of this new hotel an atmosphere, a mood and a tone which would differentiate the interiors of the Chateau from that of other well-known resort hotels.
An important source of imagery stems from the local legends and stories. Many have humour, are whimsical, and most of all could integrate well with the interior architecture of this relatively modern building. We wished to achieve an interior environment that intrigued, that captivated, that would awake the interest and curiosity of guests, that would educate visitors about the area, and that would give their stay at Mont-Tremblant a very special meaning.
The spiritual and mystical contents of the legends were a natural conductor of artistic creativity. The legends became the basis of numerous and varied artistic and decorative expressions found in local folk art, in native paintings and sculptures, in crafts, in songs, in poems, in textile design, and finally in lighting and decorative light fixtures. Nature, with its mountains, forests, lakes and river, its flora and fauna, are elements that are depicted in these stories. Complex project
In all aspects of our design concept many challenges had to be faced. The hotel is a 350,000 square foot project, combining 317 guestrooms, a large conference centre, and an upscale retail area. It was a complex project, that while imparting a feeling of warmth, of welcome and of subdued luxury, also had to address from the outset the functional requirements necessary to operate such a hotel and the economic constraints existing in the construction of such a property.
Lighting was a big concern, as it is a very important aspect of the success of the project. There are a number of spaces that serve multiple uses and need different types of lighting for the purpose of these different activities. We also knew that to express the theme developed for the interior design, we had to custom design all decorative light fixtures.
Ideas were flowing, but we quickly realized that we needed the input of a lighting consultant. We called on Ron Tremblay of Lumitech in Montreal, and asked him to work with us on a team basis for the duration of the project.
Ron welcomed the invitation and assisted us throughout the entire assignment, first in introducing us to the various lighting manufacturers in Montreal, and acting as a liaison between these manufacturers and our design team. He also provided ongoing support and continued service to us and to all parties involved in the lighting aspect of the project, which continued well after the opening of the hotel in January 1997 to the public.
The services he offered and the ongoing assistance he provided throughout the project were strong contributing factors leading to the successful final installation.
We designed chandeliers for the main lobby, the lobby lounge, the dining room, the conference centre and the skiers’ entrance. All these reflected the various themes developed for these spaces. Ideas led to sketches and drawings, but these had to be translated into products. We needed to find the proper manufacturer to produce these items.
On the recommendation of our lighting consultant, we worked with Unilight of Montreal. Unilight is a well known chandelier manufacturer that already had an established reputation as a manufacturer of decorative light fixtures for hospitality projects.
They made all the chandeliers, the wall sconces and the bathroom decorative light fixtures. Each one of the designs developed presented challenges of styles, budgets, codes and of short manufacturing delays. Each of these challenges had to be addressed. For the wall sconces, various prototypes were developed and individually analyzed. For the chandeliers, we worked exclusively from shop drawings. The quality of their work, as well as their service, lasting well after the project had opened to the public, is to be commended.
The decorative fixtures were interpretive of our concept. The lighting is mostly with incandescent bulbs, with the exception of the decorative light fixtures found in the typical guestroom corridors and the bathrooms. These were made to accept energy saving compact fluorescent bulbs. In addition, in the corridors, our design had to meet ADA constraints.
Unilight, with each decorative light fixture, met the various challenges and produced exquisite products.
In the guestrooms, all free standing light fixtures, floor, table and desk units were manufactured by Gent-Lite, another well known and established Montreal lighting manufacturer. They too met our challenge and delivered on time and within budget, fixtures fitted with compact fluorescents. They also produced prototypes and offered excellent service.
Throughout the project, we created many different methods of lighting. We find incandescent lighting and cove lighting, equipped with dimmers, to address the various lighting levels wanted. We find laser cutouts, depicting the flora and fauna of Mont-Tremblant around the domed ceiling of the foyer of the conference centre and around the elevator cab ceilings. The lighting of these cutouts, also made by Unilight, has been accented by hidden halogen light strips behind the cutouts. The effect created is very dramatic.
The overall lighting installed on the ceiling of the public area of the property was produced by Capri. As mentioned, Ron Tremblay acted as a liaison between ourselves and these manufacturers.
There were two very important requirements put forward before selecting a manufacturer of decorative light fixtures. First, they had to understand and work with the design concept developed, and they had to interpret these concepts in the execution of the final product. Secondly, it was also important for us and our client that these be manufactured in Quebec. I knew we had in Quebec the manufacturing capabilities, but Ron Tremblay introduced us to the ones who could and would understand our challenge, and who would also work with us on a team basis.
Our wish was to achieve an interior environment that was luxurious in a typically subdued Canadian way — cosy and welcoming yet functional and appealing to an international clientele. At the same time we felt it was important to acknowledge the icons of the Province of Quebec, and we wanted the project to reflect accurately the folkloric background of Quebec’s history.
The various elements such as materials, objects, furniture, furnishings and decorative lighting fixtures used in this project had to be true to the region.