NDG Cultural Centre
Atelier Big City
Atelier Big City / Cormier Cohen Davies architects
Fichten Soiferman et Associés Architectes (Production Firm) L’OEUF (Sustainable Design/Project Management)
Arrondissement Côte-des-Neiges — Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Ville de Montréal
Ulysse Lemerise B. Steve Monpetit Jean-Marc Besacier atelier big city Alain Laforest
The CCNDG captures and shapes the idea of creating the last piece of Benny Farm’s transformation. It is a building with a clear, diagonal porosity on the ground floor that connects the center of the Benny Farm site to the street. This openness reflects both its community position and responds to its siting at the corner of the block. The L-shaped building reinforces the strong setback lines of the site, drawing the neighbouring buildings together. It combines simple typologies on its opposite axes (basilica and theatre) with subtle overlaps of program to generate an enlarged, fluid and engaging living space at its center. Outdoors, it frames a landscaped court facing the community gardens at the center of Benny Farm, with seating under an old maple for community events and performances under the stars. The CCNDG says ‘welcome’ on all sides. It is a hub of cultural programs and services for all citizens. The CCNDG is also about learning and discovery, a joyful and colourful environment into which the community will grow – a communal space where all generations and user groups are brought together in two great public rooms. The continuous and generous circulation permits each of the user groups to migrate and interact easily. Organized in a sectional ‘zig-zag’ (directly to the theatre, across to the children’s library, diagonally up towards the adolescents, then across to the adults) the main program areas are spatially dynamic and fun.
The Centre culturel Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (CCNDG) is the last project on Benny Farm, a redeveloped WW2 veterans housing complex in the NDG borough located within Montreal’s metropolitain area. Unique to the area, it is a long-lived and tightly knit community with a self-defined social mission: community access and empowerment. The CCNDG is the last piece placed in a decades-long story of social activism, memory and collaborative design process that consistently rejected expediency for an expanding and inclusive idea of community. NDG is a community that has undergone dramatic changes in social composition. While once primarily English-speaking and family-oriented, it is now diverse and multi-ethnic and was in need of community spaces where such diversity can gather and interact. The community required a 21st century ‘third space’ library, one that was more socially and digitally accessible and engaged. The evolution of the library from a book archive to social hub is a key concept in the CCNDG. In addition NDG was in need of a new theatre space, one specifically able to serve contemporary dance performances. Combining both programs in a single project has added a key cultural hub within the arts landscape of both NDG and Montreal. The CCNDG is a 4,500m2 (48, 440 sqf) municipal building belonging to the Ville de Montréal (City of Montreal). The project was built at the cost of 14,5M$cdn, that is at about 3 220$cdn/m2 (228$us/sqf). The project was the winning scheme for an architectural competition.
The CCNDG spins a new design language in the red brick borough from its historical materials and forms. A segmented brick curtain envelops the building while permitting generous daylight. The library reading areas feel almost outdoors. Abstracting conventional systems of enclosure (brick cladding, shell, indoor finishes), the design places reading areas in an envelope of expanded metal and wood while offering a variety of views. The use of CLT in a public-building wall system was a first in Quebec (at time of design there remained a prohibition in the Quebec building code). Cross-laminated timber has an historical connection on the Benny Farm – the existing buildings used a constructed 2-ply cross lam for the exterior walls. The building received a LEED silver certification. Culture is the deepest root of both architecture and sustainable design, and this project is extremely well used by the citizens of NDG. In addition to resource efficiencies and innovations, the primary requirement of sustainable design is the support of a culture of common endeavour : the only way to guarantee sustainability in the long-term. It is also a necessary pragmatism in a province where energy has a small fraction of the carbon density elsewhere on the continent. Community, comfort, flexibility and economy therefore organize the CCNDG’s sustainability goals as much as resource efficiency. Understanding the limited means of the present, the project proposes a simple additive infrastructure strategy to become deeper green with time, which will continually educate and engage the NDG community.