Arcadia Studio creates pedestrian-first public space on McGill campus
Located on the Mount Royal Heritage Site, McGill University enjoys a strategic position between the mountain and the Montreal business district. In 2010, the campus was converted to become completely pedestrianized. Since then, the previous car-oriented environment is gradually being transformed to meet a new vision that focuses on sustainable mobility, increased biodiversity and innovation. Fronting the prominent Leacock Building, Arcadia Studio’s new terrace space creates a more pedestrian-oriented public realm that prioritizes seating and communal space.
Taking advantage of the works required to re-waterproof the concrete slab at the street level of the Leacock building, the university completely demolished the street located on this roof terrace. This required reorganization of the space. Firstly, to better segregate the outdoor lounge from the ventilation shafts, the bicycle parking space along the curtain wall was transferred across the street. The width of the existing road was reduced by half.
The space released along the building creates an outdoor salon with resting, gathering and working spaces that are designed to be flexible and distinctive. The expanded number and types of urban furniture includes benches, banquettes, stools, and tables which are grouped according to different arrangements to meet the variety of needs of a diverse clientele. This upgrade of facilities provides added value for the benefit of all campus users. This also provided the additional design feature of extending the interior to the exterior of the building.
All outdoor furniture was designed by McGill University, with the collaboration of Arcadia Studio. The variety of layout of the street furniture allows a better appropriation of the space which permits a more convivial and interactive work and social environment. Charging stations are hidden adjacent to the furniture on the Leacock Terrace to provide plenty of USB ports and electrical outlets for the power and charging of student devices — even in winter.
As it renovates and refurbishes its campus, the university must ensure the protection and enhancement of Mount Royal under an agreement with the City of Montreal and the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications. Inspired by historical photos, the landscape architect succeeded in recreating the character that prevailed before the construction of the Leacock building in 1964. The entrances to the Arts buildings were redrawn, with the lead architect from DFS, to rediscover the spirit in which they were originally designed. The stairs are now facing the two doors of the Arts Building to enhance the institutional and prestigious character of this establishment, and to harmonize with the entries of the adjacent buildings.
Reconfiguration to the stair access to the two doors of the Arts building was required. In additional to the heritage considerations, a new access was adapted to the street level by provision of the ramp to one of the two buildings. Access to the other building is via an existing internal elevator thus providing universal access in a cost-effective manner. This has restored access to the Art building which has been absent since the construction of the Leacock building in the 1960s.
The new Leacock terrace is one of the first phases of the rehabilitation masterplan of the prestigious McGill campus in downtown Montreal. This new vision reflects McGill’s well-established tradition of leadership in innovation and design. New challenges for the future will include universal access, energy efficiency, low-cost maintenance, environmental awareness and the enhancement and preservation of heritage. The strategy for the revitalization of the campus will serve the McGill community, the citizens of Montreal and all visitors to this imposing campus.
Photography by Isabelle Giasson.