La Grande Bibliothèque du Québec

ARCHITECTS Patkau/Croft-Pelletier/Menkès Shooner Dagenais Associated Architects
LOCATION Montreal, Quebec

The Grande Bibliothèque consolidates a number of collections in Quebec, creating a resource library for the province as well as a central public library for the city of Montreal. The library is located in the city’s Quartier Latin, between Boulevard de Maisonneuve and rue Ontario, diagonally opposite the green space of Place Dupuis. Below grade, the site connects to a major intersection in the Montreal metro system. The building is 400,000 square feet in size, and contains four major programmatic components: a general library, a children’s library, the collection Québécoise (a historic archive collection), and an assortment of spaces outside of the library control zone including an exhibition space, an auditorium, a conference centre and meeting rooms, catering facilities, bookstores, a public lobby, and café.

The street and subterranean metro system are separate but equally important public spaces. The project presented an opportunity to knit these spaces together. However, security issues associated with libraries tend to dictate a single point of access, which would have a deadening effect on the surrounding public spaces. To avoid this, city and metro pedestrian routes are connected at the street and metro levels, and the building has multiple public entrances to intersect with the capillaries of the city. Library spaces that do not require library control are located directly along pedestrian routes to connect the spaces of the library with the city. As part of a larger strategy of urban revitalization, avenue Savoie, a narrow lane on the west side of the building, is lined with bouquinistes and display vitrines. A sunken court provides daylight to below-grade spaces, and interconnects the street and metro levels at a significant scale. The public space of the city and the public space of the library are collapsed together to activate and support each other, to energize and enrich the idea of a new cultural space in Montreal.

The two major library collections are located above the expanded ground of the street and metro levels. These collections are each housed within large-scale wooden containers, and are characterized by their relationship to the associated reading spaces. In the general library, the collections are centrally located, with the reading spaces at the perimeter, with access to view and daylight. In the collection Québécoise, the reading spaces are centrally located, in a top-lit grand room, with the collections at the perimeter.

Connecting the wood-clad collections to the expanded ground below is a promenade that rises from the primary library control point to the entrance of the collection Québécoise, then turns to circumnavigate the general library upward through a series of reading rooms. Diverse views of the city unfold as the promenade ascends. Complementing the promenade is a central system of elevators and stairs that provides simple and efficient access to the general library.

Enclosing the collections, the promenade, and the lower levels is a glass and copper envelope that represents the whole library. At times diaphanous and veil-like, this envelope enticingly reveals the library to the city.

Bernardo Gómez-Pimienta: A very simple structural grid gets transformed using two methods: elimination of structural elements and sections of slabs, creating rich carved spaces, like the vertical circulation, the reading rooms, and the insertion of programmatic pieces creating a tension between open and closed spaces. A promenade architecturally takes visitors through wood-clad collections, unveiling city views and making the library an architectural icon in the city.

Betsy Williamson: The architects have deftly controlled a complex and dense program to create a civic landmark as well as a unique pedestrian urbanity that has been teased out through the manipulation of the ground plane. Nearly as important as the collections themselves, these paths that permeate the project from the subway and surrounding neighbourhood grow to encompass café and reading rooms that bring urban life up through the building behind the veil of the wood screens and slatted façade.

Client Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
Architect Team Patkau Architects–Laura Arpiainen, Greg Boothroyd, Stephan Chevalier, Michael Cunningham, Michael Elkan, Samantha Hayes, John Patkau, Patricia Patkau, Peter Suter, Craig Simms, Nick Sully. Croft Pelletier Architectes–Marie-Chantal Croft, Eric Pelletier, Jean Chretien, Benoit Ruelland, Michel Thompson, Olivier Grenier, Cedeanne Simard, Remi Hovington Jr. Menkès Shooner Dagenais Architectes–Yves Dagenais, Gaetan Roy, Stephan Chevalier, Yvon Lachance, Luc Doucet, Dominique Dumais, Catherine Belanger, Guillaume Delorimier, Luc Montpetit, Mana Hemami, Andrea Macelwee, Alex Parmentier, Christine Giguere, Alain Boudrias, Harvens Piou.
Consulting Architect Gilles Guité Architecte
Architectural Support Jodoin Lamarre Pratte et Associés Architectes
Structural Regroupement Nicolet Chartrand Knoll Limitée/Les Consultants Géniplus Inc.
Mechanical/Electrical Regroupement Bouthillette Parizeau & associés Inc./Groupe HBA Experts-Conseils Inc.
Lighting Consultant NBBJ
Acoustic Consultant Legault Davidson
Theatre Consultant Scenoplus
Elevator Consultant KJA Inc.
Building Envelope Consultant Patenaude Consultants Inc.
Code Consultant Technorm Inc.
Landscape Scheme Consultants
Builder Hervé Pomerleau Inc.
Area 33,000 m2
Budget $100 M including furniture and equipment
Completion April 2005