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2018 MCHAP

Wilder Building, Dance Space

Laponte Magne + AEdifica

Montreal, Canada

February 2017


Michel Lapointe, LAPOINTE MAGNE et associés


Mr. Patrick Bernier - ÆDIFICA (Architect in charge of project)




Michel Brunelle Mr. David Boyer


The intricate program involved the rehabilitation of an existing L-shape structure and the insertion of two contemporary annexes on empty lots, north and south of the original building. These were needed to accommodate, among other program requirements, double-height and long-span studio spaces. Early diagrams show the volumetric studies that led to the positioning of both additions. The largest, the South Annex, is mostly occupied by the Grands Ballets Canadiens while the École de danse contemporaine is housed on the top floors of the smaller North Annex. Experimental companies Tangente and Agora de la danse, directly accessible from the entrance lobby on De Bleury Street, share a number of spaces situated on the lower levels of the complex and in the North Annex. Therefore the more generic functions of the building program of the four dance companies (classrooms, administrative offices, lockers and washrooms, elevators and exit stairs, technical and mechanical rooms) are located in the renovated Wilder building, acting as the technical and functional spine of the project. Whereas the larger studios dedicated for dance rehearsals and training, as well as the three performance spaces, are housed in the two new annexes to the south and north on previously vacant lots adjacent to the Wilder.


For years, a new cultural pole has been emerging in the vicinity of Montréal’s Place des Arts. Long neglected, the area immediately to the west—and its remaining heritage properties—had been waiting for revitalization. The Édifice Wilder . Espace Danse project remedies this situation, preserving a 1918 industrial structure, revitalizing the area and bringing under a single roof the Grands Ballets Canadiens as well as three other dance institutions. Originally built as a furniture factory, the Wilder Building fronts on De Bleury Street and backs on the highly popular Place des Festivals, where numerous events including the Festival international de jazz de Montréal take place every summer. The 23,800-square-metre project, open since January 2017, creates a subtle addition to its surroundings while providing dancers with a long-awaited light-filled learning and working environment. The Édifice Wilder . Espace Danse is ambitious in its vision and scope, aiming not only to strengthen dance as an art form by uniting dance organizations, but also to expand a larger cultural development project in the heart of Montreal: the Quartier des spectacles.


Given the complexity of the program and the need to unify the façades, the architects chose to wrap the annexes using energy-efficient curtain walls. Fine silkscreened motifs, varying in size and in color according to their location, were applied to the glass panes, clearly identifying the building’s distinct occupants. Translucent insulated glass panels were selected for the rehearsal studios: there an emphasis was put on natural, diffused daylight, minimizing the need for artificial light and also providing an ethereal quality to these dance spaces. The architects also added a pixelated glass layer to the informal ‘back’ façade of the heritage building. It is meant to accommodate light effects and images projected from the Place des Festivals. Despite budget limitations, the design team went on an extensive search for innovative materials and techniques in an effort to deliver efficient and enjoyable working and learning environments for the dancers. As an example, the translucent insulated glass panels used on the annexes not only had to minimize glare problems and provide users with a certain level of intimacy, but they had to respond to strict criteria in terms of thermal insulation and sound control. Silver LEED certification is pending. As it stands today, the Édifice Wilder . Espace Danse regroups 10 rehearsal studios and 4 state-of-the-arts flexible production and performance spaces. Administrative offices for each of the three companies and for the school are provided as well. A café and a restaurant are scheduled for opening in a foreseeable future.

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