Raymond-Lévesque Public Library

PROJECT Raymond-Lévesque Public Library, Longueuil, Quebec
ARCHITECTS Manon Asselin + Jodoin Lamarre Pratte architectes en consortium
PHOTOS Marc Cramer unless otherwise noted

The new main library for the municipality of St-Hubert is situated at the northwest entrance to the Parc de la Cité, the city’s principal civic park covering 50 hectares of land. Straddling city and park, the library acts simultaneously as a gateway pavilion to the park and as an institution, playing an important role in the cultural and civic life of the community.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, St-Hubert’s built environment and cultural heritage has been intimately linked to Quebec’s aeronautic industry. Due to its geographic location, St-Hubert benefits from unique meteorological conditions resulting in a remarkable potential for wind energy. The architecture of the new library is sculpted in response to this force of nature, poetically materializing and celebrating the presence of the wind while technically seeking to take advantage of this resource for its bioclimatic strategy. Delicately sited between protected wetlands and a red maple forest, the new library explores an essential link with St-Hubert’s natural environment. The architecture of the library metamorphoses the forest and harvests the natural resources of the site. As such, the library is conceived as an interface between nature and culture.

Beyond the formal allegory of the flying carpet, the architectural concept is first and foremost an elementary bioclimatic response to the site’s condition. Its geometry speaks of the renewable natural resources of the earth, the wind, the sun and the rain. From west to east its roofscape folds under the prevailing winds. The giant cut at its centre collects rainwater in a retention basin while the wood blades of its filigree envelope filter sunlight. The subtle moiré pattern of wooden louvres highlights the apparent movement of the wind through the sequential incline of its blades in response to the trajectory of the sun. Although the wood envelope has increased durability by way of a process of carbonization, it remains a living material whose greying patina will accentuate its beauty and transform the appearance of the building over time.

The programmatic elements are organized in a single continuous movement that unfolds from the public areas to the forest, delineating a central open court. This inner courtyard forms the geographic, social and perceptual heart of the library. The fluidity of the interior spaces and their organization around an exterior common space facilitates serendipitous encounters and catalyzes human relations. Acting as a contemplative space and oasis, the court is a visual connector but also maintains physically and acoustically separate program elements. While encouraging deep penetration of natural light, the court facilitates orientation, organizes different collections, and ensures the tranquility of the main reading room. In the winter season, a carpet of snow accentuates the luminosity and peaceful quality of the library’s interior spaces.

Jury The building’s response to its unique park setting is greatly appreciated. As a courtyard building, it achieves a scale that is befitting the park. It also forms a crucible for social interaction amidst a loose suburban fabric. Light and visual transparency are celebrated in this inventive, economical and thoroughly rigorous architectural design. CA

Client Ville de Longueuil | Architect Team Atelier TAG –Manon Asselin, Katsuhiro Yamazaki, Thomas Balaban, Matt Balean, Laurie Damme Gonneville. Jodoin Lamarre Pratte architectes–Nicolas Ranger, Michel Bourassa, Carlo Carbone, Gérard Lanthier, Guylaine Beaudoin, Maxime Gagnon, Charles André Gagnon, Serge Breton | Structural/Civil SNC-Lavalin | Mechanical/Electrical Martin Roy et associés | Contractor Corporation de Construction Tridôme | Area 4,000 m2 | Budget $11.5 M | Completion January 2011