PHI Contemporary winners announced

Berlin-based architectural practice Kuehn Malvezzi and Montreal-based Pelletier de Fontenay will work as a consortium to realize the design of PHI Contemporary.

After selection through an international competition, Berlin-based architectural practice Kuehn Malvezzi and Montreal-based firm Pelletier de Fontenay will work as a consortium to realize the design of PHI Contemporary.

The architects will transform four heritage buildings and an adjacent lot, located at the intersection of Bonsecours and Saint-Paul (East) streets in the historic district of Montreal, into a new permanent cultural venue under the banner of PHI Contemporary.

© Kuehn Malvezzi + Pelletier de Fontenay, Visualization: Secchi Smith

On August 26, 2021, PHI launched an International Architecture Competition for the design of PHI Contemporary. The call elicited 65 entries from architectural firms from 14 countries, from which the jury selected 11 to compete. In the second and third stages of the Competition, the jury selected 5 finalists and 2 grand finalists, respectively. 

July 15th, 2022 marks the completion of the competition and the commencement of the design phase wherein the winning proposal will be developed.

“At the centre of the new design is our understanding of the institution as an active entity that is being formed in real-time, open and in a state of permanent transformation. Conceived as an open landscape rather than a building, the design is a simple and solid framework, a contemporary stage for hosting a wide range of activities,” says Kuehn Malvezzi + Pelletier de Fontenay. 

In response to the desire for more access to PHI’s public cultural offer, a sleek “public platform” cuts through the entire site, connecting all aspects of the new institution. The structure and its compliments are all visible from the street, with the existing structures taking on another dimension. 

At the core of the project is a public space, an “open field”, similar to a city street. This space is intentionally left open and un-programmed, freed of any predefined functions. In contrast with most traditional museums, PHI is made up of multiple in-between spaces that run between inside and outside. The result is a multilayered landscape of rooms and spaces, all connected to one another by this public space, a forum where conversations on contemporary culture can take place.

The concept proposes to highlight the original historic buildings on site in a bold and transgressive way. Rather than adding new architectural layers or recreating new buildings in line with the old, the design offers an abstract backdrop.

From a preservation point of view, the structures are purged from their interior decorations and kept intentionally bare, revealing the original architecture’s elementary features as well as many of the historical traces accumulated over time.

Opening its doors in 2026, the project will be an institution dedicated to the ongoing exploration of the contemporary through art and culture. The project will consolidate the full breadth of PHI’s public cultural offer – currently distributed between the PHI Foundation and the PHI Centre – under one roof.