Since the fall of 2019, a mysterious installation in Saint-Henri has been attracting the attention of curious Montrealers. The small pink house atop a tower in the former Canada Malting plant site shines bright above the Sud-Ouest, dazzling joggers along the Lachine Canal. The artist or artists responsible for the fresh coat of paint have apparently returned more than once.
It was painted in several stages, but the random appearance of green curtains and even a flower box were the ultimate surprise.
But who risked life and limb to climb so high for this installation, and what was their intention? It's a question that Steven Quon, one of the owners of the property, has also asked himself.
While one might have thought that the owners of the site were behind the much-discussed installation, he confirmed to Narcity Québec that it was actually an illegal and super dangerous stunt by unknown individuals.
"Let me tell you, the people who did this, they're crazy. I've been up there before. The last 40 feet is with a ladder, outside, and it's high," Quon said. "Even working up there is not easy."
"The CNESST would have gone crazy if they saw someone working there," he joked. "It's unacceptable and it's dangerous."
He explained that there hasn't been any electricity on the premise for about 30 years. For this reason, there was no security footage to capture the artists' "decoration project."
He thinks they climbed up with a generator – and the climb to the top of the tower is about 142 feet.
Though the curtains and flower box have raised questions about what the inside of the house might look like, for safety reasons, Quon does not intend to find out.
He did say that he's found some equipment on the site over the past year.
"We found six ladders of 40-50 feet. [...] That's expensive. I don't know if they steal them from construction sites," Quon said. "They're ladders worth a couple of hundred bucks."
He hasn't contacted the police about the house, however, and he says he can't pay for a 24-hour security guard, but a fence does surround the building.
"It's not easy to keep people out. We do our best. Look, if you're crazy enough to do this, if you enter illegally to do something that stupid, it's at your own risk," Quon said. "I can't be responsible for someone that crazy."
Even if he doesn't want to hunt down the artist, Quon admitted that he's as fascinated by the house as everyone else.
"It's unique, yes. It adds intrigue to the neighbourhood... But apart from being beautiful, it's not an improvement that will make the building more valuable."
Quon says he would like to see the long-abandoned lot, which represents "a loss of $120,000 a year for a place with no income" developed for a project.
"I've been working with the city for 15 years on this. It's difficult, there are zoning situations with the city, and I'm in court," Quon said. "Maybe I'll sell it. We pay a lot in taxes, and we don't use the place."