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2014 MCHAP

Grande Bibliothèque du Quebec

Patkau / Croft Pelletier / Menkes Schoner Dagenais Letourneux Architectes Associes

Montreal, Canada



Patkau Architects Menkes Shooner Dagenais Letourneux Architectes Associes Croft Pelletier


Jodoin Lamarre Pratte et Associes Architectes (architectural support) Nicolet Chartrand Knoll Limitee (structural engineer) Les Consultants Geniplus Inc. (structural engineer) Bouthillette, Pariseau & Associes Inc (Mechanical and Electrical ) Groupe HBA Experts-Conseils Inc (Mechanical and Electrical ) Scheme Consultants (Landscape Architects) Herve Pomerleau (Contractor)


Dr Guy Berthiaume, Président-directeur général Bibliothèque nationale du Québec


James Dow


The library houses two major collections, the general library and the collection Québécoise, both located above an expanded ground of street and metro levels. These collections are each housed within large-scale wooden containers, and are characterized by their relationship to the associated reading spaces. The general collection is conceived as a storage container for the various materials of the collection with reading areas outside its boundaries at the perimeter, with access to view and daylight. In the collection Québécoise, the reading spaces are centrally located, in a toplit grand room, with the collections at the perimeter. Connecting the wood-clad collections to the expanded ground below is a promenade that rises from the primary library control point to the entrance of the collection Québécoise, then turns to circumnavigate the general library upward through a series of reading rooms. Diverse views of the city unfold as the promenade ascends. Complementing the promenade is a central system of elevators and stairs that provides simple and efficient access to the library. Enclosing the collections, the promenade, and the lower levels is a glass and copper envelope that represents the whole library. At times diaphanous and veil-like, this envelope enticingly reveals the library to the city.


The Grande Bibliothèque consolidates a number of dispersed collections in Québec, creating a resource library for the province as well as a central public library for the city of Montréal. The project began in 2000 as the winning entry in an international design competition. The library is located in Montréal’s Quartier latin, between boulevard De Maisonneuve and rue Ontario, diagonally opposite the green space of Place Dupuis. Below grade, the site connects to a major intersection in the Montréal metro system. The building is 400,000 square feet in size, and contains four major programmatic components: a general library, a children’s library, the collection Québécoise (an historic collection of documents pertaining to Québec), and an assortment of spaces outside of the library control zone that facilitate a broader public engagement, including: exhibition space, auditorium, conference center and meeting rooms, catering facilities, bookstore, small second hand bookshops, public lobby, and café.


The public spaces of the library are arranged in a topographic manner below the collections, so that the public spaces of the library support and activate the public spaces of the city. The street and subterranean metro system are separate (but equally important) public spaces on the site. The project presented an opportunity to knit these spaces together to engage the energies of each. The security issues associated with libraries tend to dictate a single point of access, which has a deadening effect on surrounding public spaces. To avoid this, city and metro pedestrian routes are connected through the street and metro levels of the library. This allows the building to have multiple public entrances and be highly interconnected with the capillaries of the city. The street and metro levels of the library are conceived together as an expanded ground plane, with public facilities on both levels. Library spaces that do not require library control are located directly along pedestrian routes to actively connect the spaces of the library with the spaces of the city. As part of a larger strategy of urban revitalization, rue Savoie, a narrow lane on the west side of the building, is lined with small second hand bookshops and display vitrines. Serendipitous engagement is encouraged through visual continuity and unexpected visual adjacencies. A sunken court provides daylight to below grade spaces, and interconnects the street and metro levels at a significant scale. The public space of the city and the public space of the library are collapsed together to activate and support each other, to energize and enrich the idea of a new cultural space in Montréal.

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