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Esplanade Tranquille

Éric Gauthier

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

January 2022


Éric Gauthier (Lead ARchitect)


Fauteux et associés (Landscape architect), WSP (Mechanical, electrical, civil, structural engineer), Alto design et Dikini (Urban furniture), Zébulon Perron (Interior Design)


City of Montreal


Steve Montpetit


We were asked to provide a public space for all seasons, including a refrigerated skating rink and a service pavilion, that would not interfere with the mandate of the Partenariat du Quartier des Spectacles to offer a wide variety of activities and experiences in a constant state of flux. It led us to propose a thin linear service building defining the western edge of the esplanade and to extend the skating surface along St-Catherine street while preserving a grassy surface on the northern side for a main mobile stage. Movable planters and furniture occupy the space during summer to keep it alive and vibrant all the time. The service pavilion is an assemblage of wood boxes over a post and beam concrete plinth. The abundant fenestration includes folding glass walls on the ground floor and allows access to heated terraces on the first floor. The project includes a loading dock with two oversize freight elevators to bring urban furniture and scenic equipment of the Quartier des Spectacles down to the large storage space in the basement. The green roof includes an herb and vegetable garden maintained by the operator of the restaurant. Thirty-six geothermal wells located under the rink surface provide energy to cool and heat the building as well as the heat dissipated by the compressors of the refrigeration system which is reused. The integrated design process brought together the multidisciplinary team and the client in a collaborative environment for this $50M project that has been completed in 2022.


Even though it comprises 30 venues offering 28,000 seats, the Quartier des Spectacles is different from other North American theatre districts by its creative use of outdoor public spaces to offer free artistic installations and performances all year long. The numerous summer festivals of Montreal had, over the years, learned to take advantage of the urban voids, empty lots and wide streets of a downtown sector that had remained for decades in a transitory state. Building owners, artistic directors and promoters joined forces to form a partnership to defend, manage and develop this realm of public spaces. The masterplan was gradually implemented over the last ten years and the Esplanade, a new public space built on a 5000 square meters vacant lot, is the last phase of this ambitious $200M infrastructure program.


There was an enthusiastic public response to the first full season of operation for the Esplanade Tranquille skating rink that has attracted more than 250,000 skaters. Montrealers, visitors and tourists took advantage of the unique space, which has transformed the face of downtown in winter. Open each day and evening with free admission, the Esplanade Tranquille rink became a favourite gathering place for people of all ages looking to enjoy some skating as well as a diverse cultural, sporting and culinary program. From the MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE festival to Luminothérapie with Au bord du lac Tranquille, a unique interactive experience on ice, the various events energized the rink and helped make it an essential culture and tourism attraction. During summertime outdoor concerts accommodating 5000 people on the Esplanade helped the Quartier des Spectacles attract 4 900 000 visitors.

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