The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

Montréal: An outside perspective on major projects


For the 12th Major Projects Strategic Forum, the Chamber held an interview with Cédric Michel, Engineer; Thierry Roche, Urban Planner; and Sandra Veyret, Environmental Engineer and Economic Developer, of Lyon-based company Pylotis. Pylotis provides consulting and support for land development. Last December, the company set up shop in Montréal. We wanted to know why it chose Quebec’s metropolis and what view it has of Montréal as a foreign company.

CCMM – Why did you choose to open an office in Montréal?

Thierry Roche: We arrived in Quebec five years ago to participate in Project Colibri, a France-Quebec volunteer reconstruction project following the 2013 Lac-Mégantic disaster. Since then, the adventure in Quebec continues! Our main concern is with supporting the resilient city, something we worked on a lot in Lyon. We focus on issues concerning the environment, diversity and sustainability—issues that can also be addressed in Montréal. It’s interesting for us to be here because even if we ask ourselves the same questions in Quebec and in France, our ways of approaching them are different and complementary.

Sandra Veyret: The idea is to have multiple perspectives on projects, with complementary approaches. We work in a multidisciplinary team with Quebec and French know-how on each side of the Atlantic, with a double culture. That’s why we have offices here and in France. It’s this exchange of practices regarding the challenges of the city that we find fascinating. It’s why we have this two-fold structure. We no longer limit ourselves to the construction site, but must instead have a broader vision that takes into account notions of mobility and traffic, as well as the management of rainwater and green and blue belts.

CCMM – Is this a new reality, needing to consider green and blue belts, for example?

Sandra Veyret: The natural element is what forms the bridge between the urban and the natural world. Since green belts exist naturally, we need to preserve them. We have a vision of responsible urban planning that incorporates social and environmental issues and brings together different expertise with an economic aim. We think of these spaces as gathering places, places where we go to rejuvenate and joyfully coexist.

CCMM – What is your view of Montréal regarding urban planning and major infrastructure projects? Do you find Montréal inspiring?

Thierry Roche: To be honest, the first time we came here, we weren’t impressed by the contemporary architectural quality. Personally, I wasn’t able to make sense of Montréal architecture. Then, we began to notice that something was happening, a kind of movement. This movement is becoming clearer, as we could see at the Forum. Secondly, we are noticing that young people from France are coming to Montréal. They all dream of doing a Master’s degree or an internship in Montréal, since the city has become an attractive metropolis. We feel that something is happening: a vision is being built, a new way of living and working and, above all, of giving meaning to projects.

CCMM – Why did you attend the Major Projects Strategic Forum? Was this your first time?

Cédric Michel: Yes, it was the first time that we attended the Forum. We wanted to have an idea of what was being done in Montréal. I noticed that the four main points that we have been exploring for some time now—namely architecture, engineering, rainwater management and green belts—are aspects that were addressed all throughout the morning. The risk that we took in establishing ourselves here was quite high with the jobs we have, in regards to degree equivalencies. To see that our vision is being addressed in upcoming projects today in Montréal and that the city is growing in this way is reassuring.

CCMM – What project impressed or inspired you most this morning?

Thierry Roche: I really fell in love with the project of Laurence Vincent, Groupe Prével’s Co-President. It’s a project that really focuses on the question of “why” instead of “how.” The presentation of the project was aligned with the movement that we’ve noticed, with what is currently taking place in Montréal.

Sandra Veyret: The “Station F-MR” project was also very interesting. It was about rebuilding the city, and about recycling, modifying usage, adaptability and the convergence between the artistic and business worlds. It shows that many solutions are possible. All of this piques our interest, as we also work with the concept of independent nomadic spaces.

CCMM – In light of the two projects just named, we can assume that it’s the younger speakers that truly caught your attention. What does this tell you? What message does this send?

Thierry Roche: I think that these projects have fewer obstacles in terms of creativity, innovation and planning. They look to go beyond these obstacles, and that is tremendously important.

Sandra Veyret: And they give meaning to their projects!

CCMM – Did the Forum provide you with business opportunities that could help your growth in Montréal?

Thierry Roche: It’s an amazing place to meet people and to become known. The Forum was very well organized and very high quality.

CCMM – Do you have any advice to give to companies for establishing their business in a new country?

Sandra Veyret: For our part, we didn’t pass through the conventional platforms for businesses setting up abroad. Every time we travelled to Quebec, we had meetings. Over the long term, this network and these partnerships made it possible to set up here.

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