BY: Jason McBride
PHOTO BY: Alex Lesage, Courtesy SoukMTL.com
For the past 16 years, the Souk, Montreal’s annual marketplace of creative ideas and objects, has celebrated the local design and maker communities. Last November, that celebration moved to a whole new part of the city, decamping from its long-time home on Saint-Laurent Boulevard to the Allied Properties REIT–owned RCA Building in the emerging, vibrant Saint-Henri neighbourhood. There were lots of reasons for the move, but chief among them was that the Souk had grown up. It needed more space and hoped to stretch its wings, artistically speaking.
The festival’s founder, a designer known only as Azamit, had been a pioneer before, and she wanted to be a pioneer again. “I wanted to find that same feeling,” she says, “of people discovering a new area. I was also looking for a space that was just as raw and authentic as the designers and artists we showcase.” The RCA Building, at 1001 Lenoir Street, once home to the largest record factory in Canada, offered just that. Allied provided the exhibition space gratis, as well as free utility upgrades and security. “They were very helpful,” Azamit says. “They opened the doors and said, ‘Voilà! Do whatever you want with the space.’ I was really happy to do this project with them.” The 16th edition of the festival brought together 95 different clothing designers, craftspeople and artisans, and with the additional space (and lack of a child-deterring liquor licence), Azamit was able to also include collaborations with local chefs, panel discussions curated by the Canadian Centre for Architecture and even a special kids’ section.
When she first considered moving the Souk to Saint-Henri, Azamit wasn’t sure if her designers—or, even worse, shoppers—would follow. But Allied’s example is inspiring—it is a pioneer too, revitalizing heritage buildings that, ideally, also positively transform neighbourhoods. “I think we have the same values,” Azamit says of the company. “They go to areas that aren’t loved and bring some love.”