Research shows moving to a new home is a big source of stress — bigger, in fact, than getting divorced. Imagine, then, leaving an apartment in which you’ve lived for a long time, in a building you’re familiar with, in a neighbourhood you know well, to temporarily move into a new home while your apartment gets a makeover. When you get back to your first digs, everything feels new, less you.

Residents of the Habitations Saint-Michel Nord, in the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Michel, will soon have to face this exact situation. The Habitations’ buildings, being over 40 years old, are in need of some serious renovations. To complete the work, tenants have to be temporarily relocated. When they get to regain their homes, they will find themselves in a brand new building—a new space to become familiar with.

To ease the impact, the Société d’habitation et de développement de Montréal asked local art collective Mu and mosaicist Laurence Petit to design a mosaic project that would empower the buildings tenants and help them feeling more at home in their new surroundings.

“We wanted to enhance the on-site urban furniture that will be installed in two years, when the renovations are over,” artist Laurence Petit explains, “the goal being that the tenants feel they’re stakeholders in the revamping of their space. It’s a huge renovation project, and can be quite a shock for some. We wanted the tenants to have an easier time feeling at home once the renovations are done — that despite being brand new, the building will feel familiar.”

Children and adults participated in the art project, creating mosaics that will be integrated to the renovated building and thus, in their daily lives. Mosaics were designed in harmony with the architects’ plans and outside decoration elements.

Not only the mosaic project will ease the transition into the new space, it helped residents meet one another, interact and build lasting relationships.

“It’s always a challenge to work with a lot of people who don’t necessarily share a language or a culture. A lady from Bangladesh comes to mind: she did not speak French nor English, and relied mostly on her children for translation. Nevertheless, we were able engage through art. It’s a great way to initiate contact and build a relationship,” Petit says of the project’s positive impact thus far.