Quartier des Spectacles

PROJECT Quartier des Spectacles Place des Festivals et Vitrines Habitées, Montreal, Quebec
ARCHITECT Daoust Lestage inc. architecture design urbain
PHOTOS Marc Cramer

Historically home to Montreal’s red light district, theatres and museums, this project demonstrates the ability of cultural momentum to shape urban redevelopment. The core of the Quartier des Spectacles occupies a large city block inhabited by cultural institutions: Place des Arts, Maison Symphonique, and the Musée d’art Contemporain. Since 2007, this once destructured area, covered by parking lots, has been undergoing a major urban renewal, including a new network of four large outdoor stages around Place des Arts. When completed, it will have transformed more than 300,000 square metres of urban space.

Place des Festivals, the first phase of the Quartier des Spectacles, is bordered by rue Sainte-Catherine to the south and the Maison du Festival de Jazz and future projects to the west. To the east is rue Jeanne-Mance and the blank façade of the Musée d’art Contemporain. The Vitrines Habitées are designed as a response and a solution to this introverted building.

Set on a 10-metre sidewalk created as part of the Place des Festivals, these glass and aluminum structures are 40 metres long and 4 metres wide with a streetside terrace. All services and technical spaces are located below grade level. Each restaurant has a seating capacity of 60 with an additional 60 places available on the terrace. These buildings reap the maximum benefit from a minimal footprint.

The Vitrines are highly transparent to increase the immateriality of the buildings. The architectural scheme strives to create a monolithic extrusion carefully designed to hide the structure and mechanical systems which would have compromised the purity of the gesture.

The aluminum extrusions are punctuated by bands of glass wrapping the walls and roof. The strategy of opacity and transparency projects the users into the outdoors and allows pedestrians views into and through the restaurants. The west façades, responding to the presence of the public space, have large sliding walls that open up the visual interaction. By night, the Vitrines become a part of the spectacle on the Place.

Place des Festivals takes its cues from the theatrical heritage of the neighbourhood, magnifying the stage to the scale of the city. One of the greatest challenges of this project was to create an outdoor theatre both for the festival season and for normal urban life during the rest of the year. The balance of hard and soft landscaping and vertical markers is important. Mature trees are planted and signature lighting elements, forming the walls and ceiling of the stage, act as festive urban markers, confirming the presence of the Quartier des Spectacles within the city’s fabric.

The Place is also home to the largest interactive fountain in Canada. Composed of red and white curtains of water and light with a central fountain that rises 12 metres above the surface, it is programmed to respond to movement, light and sound. The water, captured at the surface, is filtered and reused for the fountain.

Since the delivery of the Place des Festivals, the people of Montreal have claimed the space as their own, making it a true public square all year long, day and night. Abandoned lots once used only during the festival season have established–in this reconfigured public realm of the red light district–a physical complement to these ephemeral events, formalizing theatricality and transforming the urban experience, from the spectacle to the district.

Jury: Acting as a multivalent armature for assorted spectacles and events in the heart of Montreal, this scheme powerfully encapsulates the potential of public space by engaging with and celebrating civic life. New elements, lighting, and landscaping rationalize and transform an existing nondescript square into a civilizing focus for different activities. The project’s well judged sense of scale and generous urban character are an inspiring exemplar for similar developments. CA

Place des Festivals
Client Ville de Montréal (Stéphane Ricci, Project Coordinator)
Architect Team Réal Lestage, Renée Daoust, Caroline Beaulieu, Nathalie Trudel, Lucie Bibeau, François Ménard, Catherine St-Marseille, Marie-Pier Marchand, Marie-Josée Gagnon, Stéphane Savoie, Eveline Simard
Engineering Le Groupe S.M. International Inc.
Lighting Éclairage Public
Lighting Structures & Street Lighting Lampadaires Feralux
Fountain Soucy Aquatik
Contractor Terramex Inc.
Area 320 m2 each
Budget $22 M
Completion June 2009

Vitrines Habitées
Client Ville de Montréal
Architect Team Réal Lestage, Renée Daoust, Marc Duchesne, Caroline Beaulieu, Nathalie Trudel, Catherine St-Marseille, François Ménard, Jean-François Bilodeau, Marie-Josée Gagnon, Stéphane Savoie
Engineering Le Groupe S.M. International Inc.
Lighting Éclairage Public
Contractor Groupe Dubé et Associés Inc.
Curtain Wall Alumico Architectural Inc.
Area 320 m2 each
Budget $4 M
Completion June 2010