Snuggled between the Lachine Canal and the Turcot Interchange, the squat red brick building is an ornament of the Village des Tanneries, a district of Montreal that has been eroded by time and progress.
As an area first settled by leather tanners and artisans in the late 1700s, it has borne the brunt of the creation of Montreal's symbols of industrialization. First, the Lachine Canal drove through a small cluster of homes in the 1820s, and over the coming century, a number of factories lined up along its shores. The widening of the canal and the building of the railroad followed shortly thereafter.
Then in the 1960s, bulldozers brought down a large swath of brick walk-ups to make way for the Ville-Marie Expressway and the Turcot Interchange, which remains a prominent reminder of the Jean Drapeau era of millions spent in the name of augmenting Montreal's global profile.
Now, two decades into the 21st century, a wider highway will demand the sacrifice of much of the Village des Tanneries, among it the iconic lofts of 780 St-Remi.
In its place, a new expressway will help speed 80,000 motorists a day towards the towers of downtown Montreal.
This microsite is a snapshot of 780 St-Remi as it stood in the early months of 2012. The building is more than just four stories of red brick and mortar — it's a community and melting pot composed of musicians, artists, students, professionals and artisans.
An awkward contrast of stark grey halls and bright brick walls, walking through the loft building offers constant reminders of its long history of long hours and sweat in the name of production, before people and their Ikea furniture moved in.
Sturdy pipes cut through lofts at odd angles and bright red steam tubes poke out of ceilings and walls. In the basement, old industrial breaker boxes stand unguarded, with powerful-looking levers and glass breaker tubes inside.
With the old comes the new: abandoned Home Depot shopping carts, unwanted junk mail and a strange mix of MMA posters and pro-marijuana stickers litter the halls.
Some of the building's more enigmatic characters — those with barking guard dogs and cameras outside their doors — don't appear in this story. Six willing tenants do, however, and their stories mirror the basement of Montreal's soul: raw, messy and bleeding culture.