May 1, 2006
by Canadian Architect
Architect Atelier Tag and Jodoin Lamarre Pratte Et Associes Architectes
Location Chateauguay, Quebec
The winner of an open architectural competition that was held in Quebec in 2001, the new Municipal Library of Chteauguay is located in the city’s Honor-Mercier park, a welcome addition to the existing cluster of municipal services buildings on site. Chteauguay, a south-shore suburb of Montreal, fell prey to the urban sprawl that started in the 1970s. Quite apart from its importance as a home to more than 150,000 documents–including periodicals, reference and audio-visual material–the new library functions as an important symbol of renewal in this bleak landscape of tract housing and strip malls.
The architects clearly understand the important role that a small municipal library plays in such suburban context, and have created a true public space that is meaningful to its community and a source of civic pride. To convey a sense of monumentality critical to the project’s success, architects Manon Asselin and Katsuhiro Yamazaki conceived of the street-facing front elevation as an expansive plane of roughly hewn stone suspended high above the ground on pilotis, articulated through simple load-bearing masonry, preserving scale, mass and texture. In contrast to this solidity, the largely glazed back elevation opens the library’s contents and inner functions to the natural amphitheatre of the park. The library maximizes the site’s public setting to create a focus of social spectacle and community gathering.
The ground floor works with the natural grade of the site in communicating a fluidity of public functions: caf, periodicals reading area, internet atelier and multi-purpose meeting room. A grand stair dominates the lobby and leads to the second floor, emerging into the double-height oblique hall, a vast space which contrasts to the ordered density of the stacks on the second and third floors. Conceived as “clearings in a dense forest” of printed material, the various reading areas and work rooms interspersed with the stacks on these floors can be perceived as inner courts that provide framed views of the exterior landscape.
Julien De Smedt: The Bibliothque Municipale de Chteauguay appears as a villa in the landscape. By that I mean that it manages to address and invite its surroundings with the ability of a smaller structure: the park climbs over a multipurpose room and turns its roof into a piece of nature. A similar work of continuity occurs on a programmatic level, where the classical idea of a promenade architecturale is revisited by the injection of diagonal visual relationships, thickening the overall richness of the building. I particularly appreciated the sobriety yet clarity of the material choices as well as the economy of ornament. The raw aesthetic contributes to focusing the means towards practical/active effects rather than stylistic waste.
Client City of Chateauguay
Architect Team Manon Asselin, Katsuhiro Yamazaki, Tom Yu, Marc Laurendeau, Denis Gaudreault, Michel Nantel, Julien Fantini, Olivier Millien, Sylvain Morrier
Graphic Design Pawel Karwowski
Landscape Atelier Tag
Interiors Atelier Tag
Contractor Gerpro Construction Inc.
Acoustics Jean Pierre Legault Acoustique
Area 2,600 M2
Budget $5.5 M
Completion November 2003
Photography Marc Cramer
The Glazed Back Elevation of the Library Faces the Park, Welcoming Visitors Into Its Illuminated Interior.
Transparent Circulation Routes and Clever Signage Effectively Aid Wayfinding Within the Library.
The Street-Facing Front Elevation Features a Monumental Suspended Plane of Rough-Hewn Stone.