Canadian Architect

Feature

Shared Science

An academic research facility on the Universit de Montral campus raises the bar for laboratory science buildings.

November 1, 2005
by Leslie Jen

ARCHITECT Provencher Roy + associs / Desnoyers Mercure & associs / Menks Shooner Dagenais architectes

TEXT Leslie Jen

his recent addition to the rash of new university buildings sprouting across the country is a joint research facility shared by the Universit de Montral and the cole Polytechnique de Montral. Located on the Universit de Montral campus in the lofty heights of Mount Royal north of the downtown core, the J.-Armand Bombardier Pavilion is an international-calibre centre in science and engineering which facilitates and links the interdisciplinary research activities of the two institutions.

Research in pharmaceutical technology, biotechnology, polymers and soft materials, nanotechnology and nanosciences is conducted in the 18,610-square-metre pavilion, as are studies in aeronautics and aerospace. Approximately 700 professors, students and researchers work together on a daily basis in this state-of-the-art facility.

The research centre takes advantage of the sloping site to accommodate entrances on different levels to the building, and the contextually responsive landscaping on the east side takes its cues from the wild vegetation of adjacent Mount Royal Park, becoming more formal as it moves towards the centre of the campus. Driving the massing, exterior form and material choice was a deep respect and desire for harmonious integration into the existing campus environment; particular attention was paid to the nearby Ernest Cormier-designed heritage building, the university’s main pavilion.

Fairly complex program requirements resulted in an innovative plan that separates the laboratories from the offices. In effect, the five-storey building is designed around a central core of laboratories, surrounded on the south, west and east by banks of offices for researchers and students, as well as meeting rooms and numerous open discussion areas. This separation is architecturally defined by a narrow linear five-storey atrium which allows natural daylight to wash down the orange crevasse, providing additional lighting to the offices via interior windows.

Logically, office spaces are oriented to the south and west, taking advantage of open views and ample daylight. Conversely, the laboratory core opens on the north and east sides where a less expansive window arrangement still provides researchers with views to the outdoors while addressing their requirements for more controlled light in their work environment. The underground parking entrance, delivery bay, water towers and air intakes are all located on the north side.

The volumetric differentiation of the two program functions of laboratory and office is further expressed in the contrasting treatment of the exterior walls. The laboratory core volume is sheathed with charcoal-coloured bricks; randomly arranged narrow horizontal openings pierce these dark walls to provide more controlled daylighting conditions. The bank of offices is defined by pale beige brick facing in accordance with the Universit de Montral campus architectural standards. When combined with the regularly spaced linear bands of windows, the south and west elevations take on a striped appearance, punctuated by large two-storey alternating square openings. These openings reflect a series of interior lounges providing panoramic views of the campus and city below. The light-filled soaring spaces encourage reflection, relaxation, and exchange of ideas in keeping with the interdisciplinary research goals of the facility. Furthermore, these spaces are linked with the continuous five-storey atrium, creating a network of visual vistas towards the various sectors of the building, thereby enhancing even further the interdisciplinary interaction. A winner of the 2002 Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence (CA, December 2002), these spaces were noted by the jury as being essential to the success of the scheme, “simple and powerful” gestures that “provide a break, functionally and architecturally, from the work-like quality of the rest of the building.”

Four hundred square metres of the total 7,200-square-metre area of high-tech laboratories are classified as “white labs,” extremely hermetic sterile environments in which the accuracy and precision of laboratory tests can be ensured. Anti-vibration concrete block was utilized on the ground floor and is structurally isolated from the rest of the building, enabling the installation of highly accurate measuring instruments for particularly sensitive experiments.

Energy conservation dictated the particular mechanical systems implemented in the building. Heat or cold-air recovery in the air returns is used to preheat or cool fresh air, heat recovery forms part of the water cooling system, and fume detectors in laboratories control fume hood flow. Ample natural daylight in the five-storey atrium and two-storey lounge spaces reduces artificial lighting requirements. A water-cooling loop reduces open-circuit water-cooling system use, just as low-flow pumps and reduced-flow flushing systems conserve water.

Creating a healthy environment for building occupants was of paramount importance and thus necessitated the provision of natural daylight, indirect lighting, and the elimination of wall-to-wall carpeting. Aside from respecting the differing health and security bylaws attached to office and laboratory categories, separating them into blocks allows each zone to function more advantageously on the electro-mechanical level. Furthermore, a toxic and radioactive waste recovery system was jointly established with the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) officer on campus to integrate appropriate processing facilities into the building.

It is noteworthy that the architectural team managed not only to fulfill its environmental and occupational health objectives, but it did so well within budget and according to schedule. In adopting an ethos of occupant health and sustainability, the team has created a building that expresses and facilitates the evolution of the increasingly interrelated fields comprising the world of science.

Client Universite De Montreal and Ecole De Polytechnique De Montreal

Architect Team Claude Provencher (Design Architect), Andre J. Mercure (Project Director), Anik Shooner (Project Architect), Ghislain Belanger, Neeraj Bhatia, Luc Boivin, Alain Boudrias, Eugenio Carelli, Sylvain Gagne, Pierre Gervais, Francois Hogue, Martin Houle, Marie-Claude Lambert, Jean-Francois Lantagne, Vincent Lauzon, Javier Martinez, Joanne Parent, Alex Parmentier, Jean-Luc Remy, Anne Rouaud, Jozef Zorko

Structural Pasquin St-Jean & Associes

Mechanical/Electrical Groupe Hba / Pageau Morel Et Associes Inc.

Landscape Williams Asselin Ackaoui Et Associes Inc.

Project Manager Gesvel Inc.

Construction Manager Pomerleau Inc.

Area 18,610 M2

Budget $60 M

Completion June 2004

Photography Marc Cramer Unless Otherwise Noted