Canadian Architect

Feature

True Colours

A Montreal Architect Retains the Lost Art of Drawing in Today's Digital Age, Incorporating Her Fine Manual Skills Into the Design of An Advertising Office in An Historic Urban Building.

June 1, 2007
by Canadian Architect

PROJECT LES COMMUNICATIONS BLEU BLANC ROUGE, MONTREAL, QUEBEC

ARCHITECT LUCI MASTROPASQUA, ARCHITECT

TEXT ODILE HENAULT

PHOTOS MARC CRAMER

In a world increasingly addicted to virtual images, Luci Mastropasqua is somewhat of a lone figure. A McGill graduate, she chose to work in Milan with Ettore Sottsass before heading back to Montreal to start her own practice. It is in Italy, however, that she developed her working methods and an understanding that were it not for the generations of craftsmen that preceded them, today’s designers would simply not exist. “When you had to design a glass luminary, for example, Ettore would send you to Murano so you could learn from the glassblowers what was possible and what was not,” notes Mastropasqua.

Today, Mastropasqua continues to draw by hand, and spends a tremendous amount of time researching materials and exploring details to the point of obsession. She has built a rather discreet but solid reputation for herself among the Westmounters of Montreal–whose stuffy interiors she has been transforming into vibrant contemporary living spaces. She has kept a low profile for a long time but her involvement with the well-known advertising and communications agency Bleu Blanc Rouge is finally bringing her some of the recognition she deserves.

The Bleu Blanc Rouge project involved the consolidation of scattered offices into a single area, and had all the makings of a banal commission given severe time and budget constraints. After Mastropasqua was included in the selection process, she was asked how she felt about the space the firm occupied at the time. She told the astonished partners: “It looks like a cross between a lawyer’s office and a French nursery school,” alluding to the extensive use of the French flag’s colours representing the agency’s name all over the walls. She was hired almost immediately.

Before she started the design process, Mastropasqua began peeling off the numerous layers that had been added over an 80-year period to the top floor of this beautiful 1924 building in downtown Montreal. Above the yellowed acoustic tiles, she uncovered 15-foot-high ceilings. At the back of the building, behind dirty gyproc walls, she discovered a formal suite, its wood panelling and communicating doors almost intact. Then, when considering the viability of the 11th floor, she realized that perhaps it could be used for something other than just mechanical functions.

Based on this new understanding of the problem, Mastropasqua set out to design Bleu Blanc Rouge’s offices. One last hurdle awaited her: the obligation to accommodate a recalcitrant tenant who refused to budge from his small corner office. The need to provide him with access to the elevators, the emergency staircases and the fully accessible washroom explains the reception area’s slightly convoluted layout.

Otherwise, her decision to fix the new ceiling height at 10′ 6″ gave Mastropasqua room to breathe and the ability to play with floor levels. In the lobby, up a few feet from the caf/waiting area, she thus created an informal gathering space set flush with the windowsills, with an amazing view over one of the city’s most beautiful urban spaces, Phillips Square. Throughout the office, the expansive ceiling height is further emphasized by the full-height glass partitions and doors.

The fundamental parti is clean, uncluttered and, with each work area having been designed with expansion in mind, allowed the agency to grow from 80 to 120 employees in less than a year. White minimalism prevails everywhere except for the conference room with its old-world club-like feeling. The existing furniture (kept in order to meet the budget) was painted, adapted, and mostly made to disappear thanks to the introduction of a few striking Italian-designed pieces. Next to these high-end pieces, the Ikea furniture and vinyl flooring looks rather smart, its quality considerably elevated by association.

As for the 11th floor, it was converted into more workstations and a cafeteria for the employees. A vertical connection between the two floors is achieved through a lovely staircase, long hidden behind locked doors and now given a new lease on life. Finally, Mastropasqua’s only concession to the agency’s tricolour logo is the innovative use of three LED spots in blue, white and red, subtly representing the name Bleu Blanc Rouge as one steps out of the elevator doors.

An architectural critic since the beginning of the 1980s, Odile Hnault spent a number of years abroad before moving back to Montreal in 2003. She works as a writer, professional advisor and occasionally teaches at the Universit du Qubec Montral (UQAM).

CLIENT LES COMMUNICATIONS BLEU BLANC ROUGE

ARCHITECT TEAM LUCI MASTROPASQUA, KATSUHIRO YAMASAKI, PAWEL KARWOWSKI

STRUCTURAL SHECTOR BARNACKI SHEMIE & ASSOCIES

CUSTOM CABINETRY GESTION ALPHA DESIGN

CONTRACTOR J.C.B. ENTREPRENEURS GENERAUX

AREA 19,215 FT2

BUDGET $905,000

COMPLETION JUNE 2006




Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
All posts by

Print this page

Related Posts







Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*