From past to present: The Domaine Estérel

From past to present: The Domaine Estérel

Take a break this summer and go visit one of our most beautiful resorts, conveniently located in the Laurentians! Built between 1936 and 1938 by Belgian architect Antoine Courtens on the shore of Lake Dupuis and renovated in 2012 by NEUF, the Domaine Estérel is a modernist gem that we've given a second life. Discover this project on our NEUF50 page.

The Domaine Estérel was designed in the 1930s by Belgian architect Antoine Courtens, who graduated from the National Higher Institute for Fine Arts Antwerp and was a student of the famous Art Nouveau master, Baron Victor Horta. The concrete building is not only one of the rare vestiges of modernist architecture in Quebec but was also the first commercial complex in Canada. Stores, offices, a restaurant-cabaret, a movie theater, a garage, and a gas station complemented the Estérel Sporting Club, which NEUF renovated in 2012 with the utmost care to respect its original style.

But let's start at the beginning. In 1936, a Belgian aristocrat and financier decided to invest in Canadian real estate by building a recreational tourism complex around Lake Masson. Louis Empain asked a fellow countryman, Antoine Courtens (recipient of the prestigious Prix de Rome), to design the project in the style that was in vogue in Europe at the time: modernism. On July 9, 1938, Benny Goodman inaugurated the ballroom of the Domaine Estérel for the listening pleasure of the in-crowd that attended.

But things soon took an unexpected turn when the war effort led to the seizure of the site by the Canadian government and its requisition by the army. The buildings were then abandoned and their declining state led to several being demolished, including the Hotel de la Pointe Bleue in 2012. It was not until 2014 that they were classified as "heritage buildings" by the Ministry of Culture. After discussions between the municipality and the owner, the shopping center became a town hall and a community center. The sporting club had been transformed into a hotel by NEUF two years earlier, with an added story and a completely new wing totaling 200 suites.

The Esterel Resort has since become the destination of choice for local and international tourists and has won several awards, including the Grand Prix du tourisme québécois.

Photo credit: Alex St-Jean


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