A Great Canadian Success Story
Lemay was established in 1957 by George Lemay, father of current Chief Executive Officer Louis Lemay. Located in Quebec, Lemay employs 350 people with talent from across Canada. It is a leading architecture and design firm with a strong commitment to being the best and its sights set on continual growth.
Lemay is one of the oldest firms in Montreal, Quebec. Over the years, this Canadian leader in architecture and design has expanded into an inter-disciplinary, inter-studio, practice that offers architecture with different specializations.
“It’s a pretty well-established Montreal firm that went through very organic and systematic growth over the years,” says Partner and Design Principal Andrew King. Lemay will proudly be celebrating sixty years of practice next year.
Lemay is considered one of the best-managed companies in Canada and went through some significant growth over the last three years through strategic acquisitions. “Lemay is certainly one of the bigger firms in the country right now,” says King. “We’re within the fifth-largest firms in Canada.” Lemay’s position is even more impressive when one takes into account the fact that many other large firms found in Canada actually have home bases elsewhere (i.e. United States).
Lemay’s home base is Canada. “That’s a really rare thing,” adds King. “There are lots of big firms that have international voices, that do have a presence in Canada, but they’re not Canadian homegrown – Canadian-owned and -operated.” Lemay is going to be an international voice in architecture based in Canada.
Expanding its Canadian presence, however, is actually one of the firm’s short-term goals. “We have a commitment to working outside of Quebec,” says King. “We’re moving our expertise elsewhere across Canada, and we’re looking at what we can bring, in terms of that market, to Toronto, Ontario; Vancouver, British Columbia; Calgary, Alberta,” he says.
“That’s important for us,” explains King. “We really support Canadian presence. We have a lot of talent in our talent pool, and we’re moving significantly across Canada, looking at projects from coast to coast. With award-winning projects on both coasts and everywhere between,” says King. “Lemay has aspirations to be a design leader coast to coast.”
Lemay has worked on three of the five largest healthcare projects in North America: the McGill campus hospital in Montreal, the CHU Research Centre and Centre hospitalier universitaire Sainte-Justine. “There has been tremendous penetration into the healthcare market in Quebec,” says King. “That led us to being commissioned to design the CHUQ (Centre hospitalier universitaire de Quebec) which is another $1.5 billion major urban hospital in Quebec City.”
Lemay is incredibly proud of its contribution to these important projects. “We’re actually being asked to help literally change healthcare in the province of Quebec,” says King.
The firm takes great pride in projects that have importance in terms of the identity of the culture of architecture and development. In that aspect, it has many key design projects. “We’ve been asked to do work for Saint Joseph’s Oratory, which is a major cultural institution in Montreal. We’ve been asked to do a major substantial, very symbolic addition of the new bell tower,” explains King. “So, it’s much smaller but really important in terms of the culture of the city.”
Lemay also has two projects in a small satellite community of Montreal, where it is developing a community centre, police station and new talent centre. “These are projects that all need to be interesting from a design point of view,” explains King. “These projects have importance. It’s about creating communities and sharing the aspiration with communities by way of hospitals, universities and that sort of thing.”
And recognizing that Canada is considered a design leader in the world, Lemay also wants to move Canadian design excellence abroad so it is presently working in the United States, China and North Africa. “We’re a design thinking firm that applies that thinking to different practices,” says King.
A strong commitment to service to its customers is what sets Lemay apart. “We can provide large focus services in-house. We’re like the one shop deal,” says King. “We have a strong commitment to helping our customers with thought processes, helping them in their thought leadership, and really trying to help them be innovative across the board. When somebody has a large project, we can meet their strategic planning needs and do their urban design architecture; we have touch points for projects at all scales and that really helps with the biggest projects like universities or large hospitals. We can bring our thinking.”
Proof of the firm’s commitment to design excellence can be found in the fact that it has amassed a really strong design pool at all levels from its strong leadership to having some of Canada’s biggest designers working with the firm. “It’s a large firm that offers the ‘petit design’ studio level of ‘petit design’ atelier commitment to design excellence as well,” says King.
This is a great Canadian success story. “It’s the commitment it has to the country that makes it great,” says King. “We have a commitment to Canada as a context. We love working on projects that are somehow particular to Canada, whether it’s a big healthcare project or cultural projects that are part of the Canadian cultural milieu.”
The firm also believes in net zero waste initiatives, and its new office space was designed with that in mind. “Right now, there are three equal commitments to net zero quality: execution, design excellence, and growth,” says King.
Presently working on a new website, Lemay is always looking to improve. “Essentially, we’re developing our own brand almost continuously,” says King. “We’re always re-focusing what we look at, how we showcase ourselves, how we’re involved. And we’re innovating from an ongoing point of view.” It also invests in competitions to show its ideas, innovation, and research.
After having experienced a steady and natural occurring growth during its first fifty-five years, Lemay has had a much more rapid growth over the past four years, due in part to the expansion of its team and the acquisition of the Quebec side of the IBI presence which included small firms in Montreal.
Lemay plans to continue expanding. “We expanded rapidly in that acquisition, and that helped us with depth but also with space talent, so that was a big jump,” says King. “In terms of growth, it’s a matter of bringing people on board who have a presence either across Quebec or across Canada.”
The firm has a strong vision. “In the next few years, Louis Lemay CEO wants to do some of the best projects, some of the best buildings, some of the best design innovation in Canada. His aspiration is very clear,” King says.
“As a designer,” he continues, “I personally see Lemay as one of the strongest design voices in Canada and strong leader through the work that we are doing.”
Part of the vision is its commitment to quality. “It’s a commitment to doing great projects: great institutional university projects, healthcare projects – projects that can really change the lives of people in the country in lots of ways,” says King. “And we give an extra level of design quality and design innovation to projects that you wouldn’t think present the opportunity for that, so this is an interesting aspiration and it’s one that we have the depth and breadth and talent to do. And I think it’s needed.”
The future looks bright for Lemay as it continues to expand upon its recent successes and building an even more robust national presence. The goal is to be the strongest business and design and design thinking delivery firm in Canada, doing the best work.
“We’ll be doing that in collaboration with lots of partners,” explains King. “It doesn’t happen by itself; it happens through people wanting to share an aspirational vision.”