Mont-Laurier Multifunctional Theatre
Les Architectes FABG
SNC Lavalin (Structural Engineer) Jacques Morin/AECOM (MEPF Engineer) Guy Desmarteaux/GO Multimédia (Scenographer)
In order for the building to successfully embody the socio-cultural core of Mont-Laurier and its surrounding region, the area’s inhabitants and other visitors are invited to converge towards the building via a public square adjacent to the fully-glazed entrance hall. The public space inscribed between the cathedral and the new building provides a place for informal encounters, public markets and allows the citizens to interact before and after the events. Additionally, among the competition parameters was the request for the proposal to utilize wood as much as possible in order to signify the importance of the thriving forestry industry to the area. This demand was met by designing a structural wood grid that supports the roof, technical equipment and creates a canopy over the main entrance. The exposed, wooden roof structure, a square grid composed of SPF glue-laminated beams, clearly communicates the importance of this natural resource for the successful development of the region. This feature of the building is highlighted in the transparent, grand hall and by an architectural lighting strategy that provides a strong and dramatic presence. The wood structure is a bold gesture that is intended to unify the architectural proposal and that expresses the desire to build with a smaller environmental footprint than a steel and concrete structure would entail. As a result, this significant building element embodies the aesthetic, sustainable and social values of contemporary Quebec.
The construction of a new multifunctional theatre venue was initiated by a non-profit host for multidisciplinary professional performances who has been operating in the region, approximately 250km north-west of Montreal, for over 30 years. The competition brief stated that the complex would serve not only the city of Mont-Laurier but its surrounding region as well and had to satisfy the needs of traditional performing art events yet be designed with a series of other possible configurations for cabarets, banquets, corporate events, and trade shows. In addition to the multipurpose hall, the programmatic elements of the building had to include dressing rooms for artists and performers, a green room, an entertainment room, administrative offices, a ticket office, a cloakroom, washrooms and the other technical and support spaces. Located in the Laurentian Mountains, Mont-Laurier is a small town where the forest industry still plays a central role despite a declining demand for traditional lumber and pulp for paper. The building site is located on the southern embankment of the Rivière du Lievre between Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière Cathedral and Mont-Laurier's public school. In order to respond effectively to the project brief and be site sensitive, it was important for the building to be integrated into its environment with respect to its two neighboring institutions, yet become an new and vital social anchor and cultural hub for the community and its residents.
The building's principal features is a large multipurpose performance hall that is divided in three sections along its length and combines a series of mechanisms for easy and efficient reconfiguration. The capacity of the hall is variable from 700 to 270 seats in order to accommodate comedy shows, theatre presentations, school performances and various concerts. The portion of the theatre closest to the stage consists of a hydraulic platform that connects the hall to a storage space without columns below the auditorium floor and a section of mobile seating independent of the platform. The middle portion of the hall consists of a section of telescopic seats that retract to provide additional floor space when needed. Finally, the rear section of the hall features a mezzanine of 184 seats whose guardrail can be removed depending on the configuration of the auditorium. In large part, the success of a multipurpose hall such as this one depends on the efficiency and speed of transformations from one configuration to the next. In order to fulfill this need, the design features a hydraulic platform that allows quick access to the storage spaces placed below the hall and facilitates the storage of furniture and equipment with few personnel required. Ever since its doors opened in 2014, the performance hall is in a constant process of transformation offering Mont-Laurier's residents different artistic performances, corporate events and socio-cultural activities every day, all year long and has instilled a sense of great pride in the institution within the community.