Text: Diane Stehlé
Established in 1989, Andres Escobar & Associates has quickly become one of the most reputable design firms in New York, while also carving out a place in Montréal and the Middle East. In 2015, the company joined forces with the Quebec architecture firm Lemay, becoming Escobar Design by Lemay. Now, Andres Escobar and Louis T. Lemay’s team work together to offer their clients from home and abroad an expanded and integrated range of services.
Even though he is between two projects and about to jump on a plane, Andres Escobar kindly agrees to answer our questions. The talented designer, partner, and creative director at Lemay is a very busy man. Although he has been living in Montreal for several years, he spends a good portion of his time in New York. So much so that “his clients think he lives there,” he says with an air of amusement. Escobar has managed to make a name for himself on the demanding New York market, particularly through his ingenious conversion of the Gretsch Guitar Factory into condominiums in 2001. Since then, he has seen a leap in projects in the Big Apple in the commercial interior, hotel, and high-end residential design sectors. In 2012, the Escobar Design by Lemay team successfully built a very specific brand identity for the Jade Hotel, located in Greenwich Village. “We used an Art Deco style inside the hotel. The rooms have a very Parisian retro charm, but are equipped with state-of-the-art technology,” says the designer.
More recently, the firm transformed a former commercial building on 17th Street and 9th Avenue into a luxurious townhouse. The home has five floors, and includes a cellar, a fitness room, an indoor pool, and a large parking area. Last year, Escobar Design by Lemay designed the interior of the Holiday Inn hotel in downtown Brooklyn. “We were able to respect the hotel’s strict safety standards while achieving a very glamorous design that reflects the spirit of this trendy Brooklyn neighbourhood,” says Escobar.
Internationally, Escobar Design by Lemay is continuing its expansion. The firm was hired by the royal family of Abu Dhabi to design a luxury hotel project, the H Resort in the Seychelles.
“We collaborated with local architects and have been involved at all levels, from the planning of the site to the design of the hotel’s lobby, bars, restaurants, swimming pools, villas, spa, and children’s club.”
Escobar Design by Lemay is also involved in many projects in Montreal (Humaniti) and Laval (Équinoxe). However, 70% of its clientele is international. This was the intended direction of the union between Escobar & Associates and Lemay. “Today, we’re able to deploy the firm abroad and work on major projects as a result of our complementarity. But we’re only halfway along our journey towards our objectives. We want to broaden our services by working on the external design of our clients’ projects in New York, as well as elsewhere in the United States and the world,” concludes Escobar. As you can see, Escobar Design by Lemay has the wind in its sails, and its journey is far from finished.
The Lemay architectural firm, whose notable designs include the Bell Centre, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. For the occasion, we sat down with President and Excellence Facilitator Louis T. Lemay
YOUR COMPANY IS TURNING 60 THIS YEAR. TELL US ABOUT HOW IT HAS DEVELOPED SINCE ITS START.The firm was founded in 1957.
It followed along with the changes in Quebec society. As a French-Canadian company, it primarily had access to contracts from the Church and from schools. Then, with the Quiet Revolution, Expo ‘67, and the education investment program, it was awarded many contracts for high schools and CEGEPs. The private and corporate market was added in the 1980s, since more and more Quebec businesses were cropping up. In the ‘90s, Lemay was able to access public and private domains. And lastly, more recently, interior design, urban design, urban planning, landscape architecture, sustainable development, engineering, and branding have been incorporated into our service offering. We’re now an integrated firm that offers all of the built environment design services in order to create exemplary living spaces that benefit communities.
HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN YOUR SUCCESS?
I think it boils down to two main factors. First, we’ve always envisioned developing the company and believed that we could continuously improve it. We understood that our creativity and teamwork could help us reach our development and growth objectives while still taking into account our promise to offer what is best for the client. Second, thanks to our team’s skill, talent, and passion, we’ve carried out that vision. Day after day, their energy allows the firm to grow.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS?
It’s difficult to choose just one. I’d have to say designing the Bell Centre in the ‘90s, since that project encompassed so many of our values and allowed us to take things to the next level. Other than that, the greatest project is always the one that hasn’t been carried out yet, the one that’s coming tomorrow.
TELL US ABOUT SOME OF YOUR RECENT PROJECTS.
In Montréal, we’re leading several exciting projects: Humaniti, an exemplary initiative in terms of sustainable development carried out according to our unique integrated design approach; the Quartier de la Montagne project, which is combination of condos and hotels on De La Montagne Street; the transformation of Maison Alcan; and the design of Place Bell, which is to become an entertainment hub that will welcome the Canadiens’ farm team. In Québec City, we’re renovating the Grand Théâtre de Québec to ensure its longevity. And lastly, outside the country, we recently won an international competition to design a seaside promenade in Casablanca, Morocco, and we’re working on several hotel projects in New York.
WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE OF YOUR COMPANY?
At the moment, as I just mentioned, we’re working around the world thanks to our integrated offering. In the near future, we hope to become the Canadian leader and take on even more work abroad. The potential is there.
WHAT IS YOUR VIEW OF MONTREAL ARCHITECTURE?
Montréal has changed a lot in the past 15 years. Collectively, even more can be done, but I think it has everything it needs to become a destination of choice for the quality of its living environment. The layout of its neighbourhoods, its diversity, and its downtown core that blends businesses, homes, offices, and culture in such a unique fashion makes it a city with incredible potential. I have tremendous confidence in its future.
WHAT ARE THE TRENDS IN MONTREAL ARCHITECTURE?
The trends are eclectic, but beyond the aesthetic lies the matter of sustainable development, which is at the heart of contemporary design. We need to create healthy living environments without any ecological footprint that will allow future generations to experience the best of our heritage. We have to think long-term. That’s what architecture is.