Salle De Spectacle Desjardins

ARCHITECT Paul Laurendeau/Jodoin Lamarre Pratte, Architectes en Consortium

LOCATION Dolbeau-Mistassini, Quebec

The location of this project is the city of Dolbeau-Mistassini in the Lac Saint-Jean area of Quebec, located at the mouth of the Saguenay River at the extreme northwest corner of the lake. Created in 1997 from the fusion of Dolbeau and Mistassini, the population now reaches 14,800. In 2005, the City sought an architect to design an appropriate performance venue to service the population’s growing cultural activities, and the Salle de Spectacle Desjardins theatre responds to this need.

Located on Avenue de l’glise adjacent to an existing red brick building–a former schoolhouse built in 1948–the theatre replaces a poor-quality extension to the school dating from 1984. The height of the theatre intentionally mimics the height of the school, and was set back from the street to create an urban public square for gathering. Although parking is located at the back and patrons arrive from the rear of the building, the main entrance nonetheless addresses the street as a positive urban gesture, establishing a strong presence through a sleek glass faade, black canopy, and a brightly lit marquee.

The essential force of the project lies in its geometry, and the parti is governed by a central axis which imposes an intrinsic sense of order and direction. From the street, the building unfolds along this axis that organizes the major volumes to form a processional sequence from entry to stage. Past the front doors and across the hall, a vast foyer forms the heart of the project. This space is intended for special events and pre- and post-show public gatherings, and extends to the building’s exterior, forming a courtyard planted with symmetric rows of yellow birch trees.

A curved vestibule connects the foyer to the rounded auditorium, whose verticality is emphasized with two narrow and steep balconies that form a semi-circular loop around the orchestra. In this central space, height is equal to width and, contrary to acoustic convention, the ceiling is a flat canvas to showcase a work of art glowing above the spectators’ heads before each performance. The orchestra accommodates 300 seats in 12 rows, and each balcony contains two rows of 95 seats each, totalling 490 seats swathed in red upholstery, forming a luxurious contrast to the black peripheral surfaces. Furthermore, in addition to the intimate balconies, the pitch of the orchestra seats is conducive to live shows, bringing the public and performers closer together.

Administrative and service spaces are housed on the ground floor in a separate volume projecting off the main building at its rear, forming the back wall of the treed courtyard, an element central to the scheme and thus easily accessible from all of the theatre’s major spaces.

Despite a modest budget, sober but good-quality materials will be used in the construction to allow the building to age gracefully. Glass and dark tinted fibro-cement panels comprise the building’s outer skin. The texture of concrete shows through a layer of dark stain, and wide expanses of glass provide visual openness to the building’s volumes. Paradoxically, budget constraints exclude the use of wood in a region that relies on the forest industry for its survival. As such, in the central foyer, wood planks in the formwork will at least leave their grainy texture on eight massive cast-in-place concrete columns. Acoustic equilibrium in the foyer is accomplished with exposed black-dyed fibreglass panels fixed to a rigid backing. The absorbent lining creates surface continuity in this stark concrete shell lit by a grid of suspended spotlights.

Berke: I absolutely adored this small understated theatre building. Its straightforward plan generated wonderful spaces and a strong bold faade. The treed courtyard seems the ideal complement to the theatre spaces, and its street faade will energize the town. One has the sense that the theatre client and the architect they selected really understood each other. The building is refreshing in its simplicity, and is a very cool project.

Sweetapple: This simple building packs a lot of punch. The glass faade with its supergraphics acts as a marquee and envelope for the vast foyer. The plan is simply resolved through extensive geometric study, and the project puts a modern spin on the classical “type” as found in the Paris Opera House. The symmetrical layers of thresholds or events that one must pass though to attend an event were carefully considered and resolved. The public spaces within also have very subtle but strong relationships to the exterior, ie; the foyer and the adjacent grove of trees.

Teeple: In what appears to be a disjointed context of leftover existing buildings and parking lots, the built volume of the new theatre projects a sequence of public spatial volumes–both interior and exterior. This deceptively simple strategy generates a powerful expression beyond the apparent means of the commission.

Client Ville de Dolbeau-Mistassini

Architect team Paul Laurendeau, Marc Laurendeau, Denis Gaudreault, Michel Simard, Irina Nazarova, Claire Dusonchet, Yanick Lesage

Structural Dessau-Soprin

Mechanical/Electrical Le Groupe Roche

Landscape Paul Laurendeau/Jodoin Lamarre Pratte, Architectes en Consortium

Interiors Paul Laurendeau/Jodoin Lamarre Pratte, Architectes en Consortium

Scenography Go Multimdia

Acoustics Legault & Davidson

Area 2,400 m2

Budget $8.2 M

Completion Spring 2008