The ferryboat, originally named the Arthur Cardin, was built in 1951 and carried people to and from Sorel and Berthier. In 1967, the boat was reborn as a traveling theater and art center for the World Expo in Montreal and it included a theater, foyers on three floors, bars, a restaurant, cabins for staff, and dressing rooms for actors. L’Escale proudly plied the waters in front of the famous Habitat 67 and enchanted thousands with its floating arts. After time and disuse, the boat was again resurrected — this time as a Bota Bota, a floating spa located at the foot of rue McGill in the old port of Montreal.
The boat had sustained considerable damage to its hull and it took two years of renovations on dry land to transform the former ferryboat/theater into a relaxing guest spa. As the spa would only float and not travel along the waters, the engines were removed to make way for guest locker rooms, and additional infrastructure was added for treatment rooms, pools, offices, a cafe, relaxation lounges and more.
Rooms located in the lower decks are kept dark and tranquil to provide guests with a secluded and quiet space for relaxation. As guests travel closer to the top deck, the spaces open up with more light with a greater connection to nature and the surrounding waters. Over 650 porthole windows were added via prefab metal panels in many places to provide more light as well as texture to the boat.
The boat now stands stationary in the water, no longer running on dirty and polluting diesel engines. Hooked to shore-tied grid energy, the boat runs much more efficiently and utilizes a geothermal heat pump to increase energy efficiency. An open geothermal loop in a reservoir next to the boat uses the relatively constant temperature of the water to aid in heating and cooling. Visitors to the floating spa must first cross over Quai des éclusiers and the train bridge and enter the classic style garden, which stands in stark contrast to the industrial landscape of the Old Port.
Via Fast Co. Design
Images © Sid Lee