MMFA unveils new pavilion dedicated to international art and education

1) The Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace – International Art and Education. Photo © Marc Cramer
1) The Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace – International Art and Education. Photo © Marc Cramer

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is opening the doors of its Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace for the first time. Opening officially in November 2016, it will be part of the legacy of Montreal’s 375th anniversary. The architectural quality of the pavilion, built by the consortium of Atelier TAG and Jodoin Lamarre Pratte Architectes, two Montreal architectural firms chosen by competition in 2013, bolsters Montreal’s status as a UNESCO city of design.

“The architecture of the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace opens up onto the city, the mountain and the river. It embodies the Museum’s fundamental values: inclusive, open to diversity and rooted in its community. The collection generously donated by the Hornsteins to the community will be showcased in the new pavilion’s spacious galleries, the largest in the Museum complex,” said Jacques Parisien, the Museum’s new President.

Following the remarkably generous gift of 75 works by Michal and Renata Hornstein in 2012, making the MMFA’s old masters collection the second largest in Canada, the Museum received special funding from the Quebec government to add a fifth pavilion to its museum complex. Regrettably, Michal Hornstein died recently, but his wife, Renata, commented, “I’m deeply moved as I discover this pavilion, which has been designed with great ingenuity. lt will help showcase the collection my husband and I built throughout our lives and cherished for so many years. Michal spent his career in real estate development, and so he appreciated the building’s design, especially the abundance of natural light. In a few months, it will be the public’s turn to discover our works and the Museum’s entire collection of international art in this magnificent setting.”

On this occasion, Nathalie Bondil, the Museum’s Director and Chief Curator, unveiled the Path of Peace, a contemporary art circuit in the new pavilion, with seven stations: “While serving on the jury for the Ministère de la culture et des communications’ art and architecture integration programme (1 per cent) for the Pavilion for Peace, I was so impressed by the projects submitted by our five Quebec artists that I wanted to develop and adapt each one of them to each floor of the building, to create a contemporary Path of Peace in contrast to the early art on display. Although Patrick Beaulieu was the unanimous choice for the grand prize, works by Patrick Coutu, Roberto Pellegrinuzzi, Yannick Pouliot, Martha Townsend will also be on display in the Pavilion for Peace. Visitors will discover the works of these artists as they stroll through the pavilion.”

Along with works by the five artists in competition for the 1 per cent, a first in Quebec’s public art integration programme, the Path of Peace will feature a work by French contemporary artist Jean‐Michel Othoniel, which is unveiled today: the highly symbolic, impressive and monumental Peony Knot. In explaining this choice, Ms. Bondil said, “Not only was Othoniel’s suspended piece well suited to the contemplative ambience created by our architects, but the enchanting material makes reference to our Museum complex, from our Tiffany windows to Chihuly’s glass Sun. Above all, the peony’s symbolism fits perfectly with our new pavilion, as an emblem of its humanist and therapeutic mission. The origin of the word “peony” dates back to Paeon, physician to the Greek gods, referred to at the Knossos site in Crete. Paeon was said to have used the peony to treat the wounds of the gods of war and the underworld. In China, the peony brings prosperity and health.”

Lastly, MU will design and create urban murals for the reception areas in the Michel de le Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy.


The Pavilion for Peace is clad in a lacework designed to emphasize the two‐part massing by enveloping the whole in a delicate veil. It looks onto the city, with its Victorian buildings and maritime and natural heritage, and offers panoramic views from the river to the mountain. The ensemble appears to be a unique and coherent levitating structure that is also mutable, assuming a different appearance with every change of daylight. At nightfall, its nocturnal persona emerges. The light from the galleries emits a soft glow that seems to dissolve the lacework, rendering visible the activity taking place in the event stairway and revealing the warmth of the wood interior to the city. Visitors will discover the multiple functions of the lobby and its vertical extension located at the interface between the street and the Museum.

Much more than a mere device for efficient circulation, the event stairway is first and foremost a slow space designed for lingering. The veil, preassembled from small modules of aluminum rods, boasts a remarkable economy of means. “In this pavilion, we tried to articulate a spatial concept that was about a weaving with the city. The city as an organic, authentic expression of the present moment,” explained Katsuhiro Yamazaki from Atelier TAG. “Constantly changing and always unequivocally relevant, to imagine a condition where the act of going to the Museum was as natural and effortless as taking a walk in the park. A socio‐spatial apparatus of an event stairway is suspended in the city behind a veil that dematerializes the building mass animated by the constant changing light. An interior urban promenade, fluid and filled with natural light, poetically reveals the activities within the museum. A place of not only contemplation and consumption but also of education, exchange and even healing.”

Canadian Architect Award of Excellence

The consortium of Atelier TAG and Jodoin Lamarre Pratte Architectes won one of the eleven prizes in the 2013 Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence during the construction of the building. This award underscores the quality of the innovation and excellence in the design of our fifth pavilion. The building’s transparent façade and its integration into Bishop Street make this a remarkable architectural complex.

The process of selecting the winner

The choice of the consortium of Atelier TAG + Jodoin Lamarre Pratte Architectes was made in two stages. In December 2012, the MMFA has launched this architectural competition. During the first step of selection, twenty architectural firms with a Montreal office took part in the competition. The eight‐member jury, including five independent architects (Clément Demers, Thomas Fontaine, Jean Claude Marsan, Philippe Poulin and Mario Saïa as president) and three members of the MMFA (Brian M. Levitt, Chairman of the Board, Nathalie Bondil and Bruce McNiven, Chairman of the Buildings, Maintenance and Security Advisory Committee), selected three finalists based on the evaluation of their files, without the presentation of sketches. The main selection criteria evaluated at this first stage were the candidate’s design skills and the experience of his or her team and proven ability to adhere to budgets.

The consortium of Atelier TAG and Jodoin Lamarre Pratte Architectes, Saucier+Perrotte Architectes and Les Architectes FABG were selected to go on to the second phase. In this phase, each finalist had to draw up plans to submit to the jury. The selection criteria were: conceptual approach, expression of the architectural option and its formalization, architectural solution to the main challenges, achievement of the goals of programming and operation, adherence to the construction budget, and measures taken to ensure basic LEED certification. After studying the projects, the jury unanimously voted for the consortium of Atelier TAG and Jodoin Lamarre Pratte Architectes.


Peony Knot is a monumental sculpture consisting of 212 mirrored glass and stainless steel beads. A permanent installation in the event stairway, it is a perfect fit with the European works of art in this pavilion. The orange, amber, red, pink and plum‐coloured beads evoke the tones of poppies. Suspended from the ceiling, it appears like a dynamic, swirling line of beads that seems to fly through space. This is the first work by this prolific internationally acclaimed artist to be added to a Canadian museum’s collection.

The work was created in 2015 at the Matteo Gonnet Glassworks studio in Basel, Switzerland, where Othoniel has worked for twenty years. It was originally designed for the new Hostetter Gallery as part of the exhibition Secret Flower Sculptures at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, in March 2015. From there it went to San Francisco’s 836M Gallery on Montgomery Street. The MMFA is in the process of acquiring this sculpture, which is the object of a fundraising campaign.

1)Jean-Michel Othoniel’s Peony Knot (2015) is installed on Level 3 of the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace – International Art and Education. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley.
1) Jean-Michel Othoniel’s Peony Knot (2015) is installed on Level 3 of the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace – International Art and Education. Photo MMFA, Denis Farley.

The artist had this to say about his work: “In China, the peony is considered the queen of flowers, representing nobility, opulence and honour, and personifying love. Depicted in groups of three, it heralds the arrival of spring. The peony has epitomized prosperity and happiness since the Tang dynasty (618‐906). In the Song dynasty (960‐1279), it was known as the “flower of wealth and prestige,” and images of the peony were reproduced on many different objects. In Western culture, it is known as the Pentecostal rose. In the Middle Ages, it was thought to have powerful therapeutic powers and was used to treat mental illnesses and ward off evil spells cast by magic.”

“Beauty and wonder are inherent in Jean‐Michel Othoniel’s practice,” said Diane Charbonneau, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Decorative Art. “Using glass, his material of choice, he creates captivating works, taking a formal approach that combines art and craft. Museum visitors will be able to enjoy this magnificent, brightly coloured work with its generous proportions, which will be featured in the event stairway.”


When announcing the name of the new pavilion, Nathalie Bondil explained that “not only will its name distinguish it from the other pavilion named for the Hornsteins in 2000, it will also enable us to support a cause the couple held dear. We will be honouring these important collectors but we will also pay tribute to the values they championed throughout their lives, and the tribulations and tragedies they experienced.”

The new pavilion meets all international standards for museum design and conservation. It will house the Museum’s international collection, from the old masters to modern art — unique in Quebec — enriched by the Hornsteins’ exceptionally generous gift of seventy‐five works. It will also make it possible to better integrate Ben Weider’s Napoleonic collection, as well as the modern art collection, from Rodin to Picasso, the only one of its kind in Quebec and a favourite with visitors.

Some 700 works from the Middle Ages to the modern era will be displayed in the galleries on four levels, which will be connected to the existing galleries on Sherbrooke Street, for an exhibition area of 2,353.8 m2. These galleries will be the largest in the Museum complex. Covering 4,958 m2 on six floors, this fifth pavilion completes the museum complex, which will now have a total area of 53,095 m2.

Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy

Two levels of the new building will be devoted to education and art therapy, which will help the Museum pursue its goal of being a mainstay of the community and its collective identity. In addition to the current space in the Jean‐Noël Desmarais Pavilion, the Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy will be the largest educational complex in North America. The MMFA’s educational and community activities have the highest attendance rate of any art museum, with 300,000 participants annually, including more than 70,000 school children.

The Atelier will welcome community and school clienteles as well as families, with areas earmarked for hands‐on digital activities, a lunch area, a family lounge, galleries, a safe bus drop‐off area and twelve workshops spaces.

There will be two areas dedicated to art therapy, a world first for a museum, with support from Michel de la Chenelière and Bell. The first will comprise a studio for groups as part of our clinical research projects, a consultation room and private areas to ensure confidentiality. The second will be an open art‐therapy studio to welcome community organizations, in partnership with Concordia University and its Art Hives network.

Zone éducation‐culture

The Ville de Montréal, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) and Concordia University have announced the creation of Zone Éducation‐Culture, a vibrant hub developed on Bishop Street and shared by the Quartier du Musée and the Quartier Concordia. The redevelopment of this downtown area, which is very popular with tourists, members of the Concordia community, and the visitors of the MMFA — including a higher number of schoolchildren — will breathe new life into this part of the borough and further enhance the city’s reputation Thanks to a $4.8 million investment by the Ville de Montréal.

The Museum’s Sculpture Garden will be expanded from Du Musée Avenue onto Sherbrooke Street (north and south sides bordering the Museum) as well as Bishop Street. “A clear message for peace, the image of our city as a haven for refugees from all over the world but also for the peace of mind that the Museum wants to give to its hundreds of thousands of visitors to children and families, to those who are suffering and those who have been neglected,” concluded Ms. Bondil. This pavilion will be an opportunity for the Museum to continue pursuing its goal of making a difference in the community, through programmes targeting preschoolers, cultural communities, art therapy clients and seniors.


The expansion is on time and on budget. Total cost of this project is $25 million. Construction costs for the Museum’s two most recent pavilions are significantly lower than those of other Canadian museums: $505/sq.ftÇ for the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace and $577 sq.ftÇ for the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art. Like the Pavilion of Quebec and Canadian Art, the building’s design respects sustainable development and energy efficiency standards.

“The Pavilion for Peace is the third expansion project in which I’ve been involved, after the Jean‐ Noël Desmarais Pavilion in 1991 and the Claire and Marc Bourgie Pavilion in 2011. The new Pavilion for Peace was built on time and on budget, with no delays and no cost overruns, thanks to the Museum’s stringent management, in collaboration with a team of high‐calibre professionals. I would like to thank all of our valued partners,” Paul Lavallée, Director of Administration, said proudly.

The Museum has also established a self‐financing fund with generous contributions from the private sector and notably Michal Hornstein. With this innovative method, investment earnings from these funds will cover all operating costs. The MMFA is ranked first among Canadian museums for the percentage of self‐generated revenues (55 per cent).

Please note: This article previously stated that The Pavilion for Peace was selected for the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize for Emerging Architecture from the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology. This has been removed for accuracy – the Pavilion was not selected for this prize.