The Transformation of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Hotel

Oct 09, 2017

Working closely with owner Ivanhoé Cambridge and operator Fairmont Hotels, Sid Lee Architecture crafted a vision for the hotel’s repositioning and developed architecture and interior design concepts to make it happen. The project was executed by the architectural consortium of Sid Lee Architecture | Architecture49, with general contractor Pomerleau.


“We designed the renewed hotel experience with a very holistic vision. The hotel literally opens onto the city to welcome local people. More generally, it reasserts itself as an urban hub serving local and international clientele. It’s a third space where people can go every day to do business, attend events or enjoy some downtime.” – Jean Pelland, Architect, Senior Partner, Sid Lee Architecture


When it opened in 1958, The Queen Elizabeth was one of the world’s great modern hotels, and it remains Canada’s largest hotel east of Toronto. Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth embodies the mid-century vision of the perfect hotel: a grand international-style building built at the heart of the key infrastructure projects of the day, a beacon of modernity lighting the way to downtown Montreal’s future. At the time, the hotel’s original brand (Hilton) was still closely linked to passenger rail, specifically the Canadian National Railway. In the 1960s, the hotel’s restaurants and lounges, such as the Beaver Club, attracted international politicians and businesspeople. Legendary musicians like Oscar Peterson performed there, and the hotel hosted an impressive list of prestigious parties, balls and events attended by heads of state, royalty and captains of industry.


Today, the hotel pays tribute to its past by providing an inspiring space and new programming in tune with its quintessential Montreal character. Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth is opening itself to the city, making the most of its spectacular views, and providing living and working spaces that will encourage local and international clients to make it their own.“We embraced the standards of the prestigious Fairmont brand to design a world-class hotel environment. The Queen Elizabeth’s new style is inspired by the hotel’s history and stylistic evolution, giving it an identity all its own.” – Martin Leblanc, Architect, Senior Partner, Sid Lee Architecture


True to its original design, the Grand Hall has become a public street inviting Montrealers and visitors to explore The Queen Elizabeth’s new spaces. The hotel’s commercial services line the ground floor and are open to the street, becoming part of the city’s lively downtown vibe. Its spaces riff freely on the aesthetics of the 60s, with a material expression unique to the hotel’s brand.The Agora is a new type of space for the hotel. This prototypical indoor public place will host major festive events that showcase and define Montreal on the world stage. Its design is a vision of the future that pays tribute to the futurism of its time.  The Agora’s design is based on daring, eclectic juxtapositions of small, inviting, modular spaces.


About Sid Lee Architecture

Founded in 2009 through the integration of the Nomade architectural firm, Sid Lee Architecture is the product of the combined talent and skill of architects and urban designers Jean Pelland and Martin Leblanc, and the Sid Lee creative agency. 

Working around the world from its Montreal studios, Sid Lee Architecture has nearly 50 architects, technicians, designers, managers and other professionals. Sid Lee Architecture’s projects stand out for their uniqueness and strong identity steeped in history, culture and community.

Photo Credits: Stephane Brugger


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