Amenagement du musee et du dome de la basilique de l’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal

Atelier TAG and Architecture49 in consortium


The fourth and final phase of a major renovation plan, this project makes the Oratory’s long-hidden inter-dome space and lanternon accessible to the public, offering the highest viewing belvedere of the city. Adding to the experience, the museum beneath the sanctuary level will also be fully redefined. The new promenade through the museum and the inter-dome is an extension and enhancement of an existing pilgrimage path. It presents the Oratory as a journey, both physical and spiritual, rather than a simple object of consumption.

The project develops a simple construction system: the use of a malleable metal mesh which is stretched over the existing secondary structure. The architectural textile is chosen for its transparency, low maintenance, lightness, reflective surface, durability and fire resistance. The veil confers an ethereal appearance to the inter-dome space, while its woven surface reflects specks of light. From a utilitarian point of view, it provides an economical solution for rendering the existing stairs and ramps code-compliant, offers a protective coating to the asbestos surface of the domes, and subtly integrates mechanical systems and acoustic surfaces. The transparency of the mesh also allows the installation of lighting fixtures within the enlarged profile of the ramp’s handrails.

In the renovated museum, the circular ticket office is a unifying crossroad that serves the other programmatic elements. Defined by the transcription of the cupola’s geometry, the central hub allows minimal staff to effectively direct visitors to destinations including the temporary exhibitions, sculpture garden, and stairs and elevators leading to the inter-dome.

Les escaliers de l’oculus

The visitor ascends step by step to the drum, a space that deftly sorts the flow of visitors up and down, avoiding cross-traffic, and that offers visitors new perspectives on the sanctuary below. The second climb is enclosed within the stair tower, ending with an unveiling: the visitor enters the bridge and finally discovers the immensity of the space of the oculus. The final ascent is an uncanny experience: up a spiral, perched above a large dome. The vertiginous impression of being levitated is mitigated by the enveloping presence of the architectural drape. The ultimate destination, the lanternon, is the apex of both the experience itself and of Montreal.

Vue globale de l’entre-dômes aménagé

On the descent, a ramp circles the dome, providing low-angle views accentuated by the curvature of the dome. From the dimmed space of the dome, the final landing on the mezzanine, by contrast, is bathed in light. Here, visitors gather to admire panoramic views of the surroundings.

The project is the winning entry in a Quebec-wide architectural competition held in the spring of 2018.

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Jury Comments

David Penner :: This project blurs the line between programmer and architect. The brief proposes a novel way to adaptively reuse a heritage structure to allow people to see its construction, inhabiting the shell space of the dome. There is an existing stair in place that is rendered code-compliant in this design. Executing the project will be technically challenging.

Monica Adair :: The architecture engages with the sublime nature and grandeur of the space. It tells an important story for this site, and will create a novel and exploratory journey through the building, from the basement to the spire, allowing visitors to revisit a familiar space in a new way. By capturing the sublime, this adaptive reuse project makes the case for protecting this icon.

Ted Watson :: The graphic representation and documentation on this project are extremely captivating, rich and informative. The use of metal mesh net as a veil-like guard is appropriately minimal and creates a thrill factor—it’s the right choice to protect both visitors and the architecture. The mesh gives the forms a ghost-like, ephemeral quality that makes this very loaded project type strangely delicate and poetic.


CLIENT:: L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal
STRUCTURAL:: SDK et associes
MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL:: Stantec Consulting Ltd.
COST:: LCO Construction and Management Consultants Inc.
AREA:: 3,500 m2
BUDGET:: $13.5 M
STATUS:: Schematic design

View within Canadian Architect magazine’s December 2018 Awards Issue: