Palm trees, Japanese nightingales, and goldfish swimming in a lagoon-like pool are not things you might expect to see in Montreal, but surprisingly, they can be found in an indoor atrium at Les Tropiques Nord (The Tropics North). 1
Built in 1989 by Tolchinsky & Goodz, this luxury condominium complex features a one-of-a-kind exotic botanical garden overlooking the St. Lawrence River and is next door to the famous Habitat 67. Almost 30 years after its construction, Les Tropiques Nord bring an exclusive tropical and avant-garde element to Montreal’s condo market.
When Les Tropiques Nord complex first opened, it struggled to fill its 120 units with a third of them left empty. At the time, the demand for luxury condominiums was a niche market, particularly in the early 1990s during the recession. The developer’s original plans were to build multiple phases of the complex, but due to the lack of buyers, only one was built. 2 In an attempt to fill the remaining units, some 1-bedroom units sold for as low as $150,000 ($262,000 in today’s dollars!) 3 Nowadays some of the larger units can easily go for over half a million, but with all the amenities the complex offers, the high price tag makes sense.
A lagoon-like pool seems like the perfect place to relax. Photo courtesy of kijiji.ca
Les Tropiques Nord is located in Cité du Havre, a comfortable distance away from Montreal's downtown core. From the street, the facade isn’t very telling and can be easily overlooked as it is similar to other condominium structures from that decade.
The west facade, viewed from the street. Photo courtesy of imtl.org
The complex's placement on the site offers spectacular vistas including Montreal's old port, the St. Lawrence River and the interlocking complex known as Habitat 67, which now also boasts a luxury-condominium market. Either way, everyone has the privilege of enjoying a million dollar view.
A view of Habitat 67 from a resident's condominium unit. Photo courtesy of christiesrealestate.com
Every resident has balcony access to the 12 storey, 1,835 m2 atrium, which has a toasty year-round temperature of 26˚C.4 I know that if I could spend my days exploring the trails in the garden while looking out onto the St. Lawrence River, I'd never leave home!
The humid weather allows for hibiscus flowers to bloom and bananas to ripen despite the weather outside thanks to a dedicated team of gardeners working around the clock. I like that each balcony has their own planter, making the whole atrium feel more integrated with the garden at grade.
Homeowners have the option to eat outside year-round! Photo courtesy of christiesrealestate.com
Walking into the complex is an experience of its own with the foyer clad entirely in marble, interrupted only by the entrance to the atrium. The condominium speaks volumes of its efforts to provide a luxurious living experience for its residents.
The grand marble-clad entrance. Photo courtesy of towertrip.com
Although the layout and design of the complex are very much reminiscent of 1980s architecture, some interior spaces vary drastically in their eras of influence.
Some homeowners decided to decorate their space in a traditional and elegant style, while others have chosen to modernize their décor with a contemporary approach.
A unit posting showcasing the traditional decor. Photo courtesy of christiesrealestate.com
The extravagance of these units means that their listings are often accompanied by a short video tour, as seen in this clip.
Although Les Tropiques Nord may have initially gone through rough times selling its units, now the homes are in high demand. Pitching the design of a complex housing a botanical garden was an avant-garde idea for its time, but it’s quite a sight to see palms trees at one end of a home with snow on the other!
Interested in reading more about stories about great condominiums? Check out these recent houseporn.ca articles:
This article was researched and written by Emily Suchy, Undergraduate Student of Architecture at the University of Toronto
1: Lamey, Mary. "Splendour in the palms: Corner unit selling for $1.35 million. Luxury condo offers spectacular garden, proximity to downtown and river views." The Gazette (Montreal), November 25, 2002.
———. "Things move slowly in the Tropics - even condos." The Gazette (Montreal), January 13, 1994.
2: Winters, Robert. "Slowdown makes it harder for Tropiques Nord to find buyers." The Gazette (Montreal), November 19, 1990.
3: Bank of Canada. "Inflation Calculator." Bank of Canada. http://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/related/inflation-calculator/.
4: Tolchinsky & Goodz Architects, and Temprano Associates Inc. "Tropics North Condominium Montreal." The Canadian Architect 36, no. 5 (May 1991): 29-34.