Montreal Symphony Orchestra
Montreal, Québec, Canada
The project criteria called for a cultural and administrative complex in downtown Montreal that would provide four things: the Montreal Symphony Orchestra with a permanent home and world-class concert hall, a building for the Conservatory of Music and Drama, an administrative building for the government, and a revitalization of this urban sector with a site dedicated to education and business.
Our intention was to take advantage of existing qualities and strengths of the location, especially the historic warehouse and bank buildings on the site, and the Museum of Contemporary Art and metro station adjacent to it. By revalidating the Balmoral Street and Mayor Street axes for pedestrian and automotive traffic, the site is connected to the city and beyond.
The resulting scheme is based on fundamental decisions about parking and loading, the concert hall dropoff, the public square and the tower placement and configuration. The natural "front" of the site on Jeanne Mance Street, facing the Museum of Contemporary Art, was retained for pedestrian traffic and creates an interior court serving as a space for concerts, films, and other public activity. Mayor Street, unessential as a traffic artery, would remain closed during public events and open during concerts for vehicular traffic. Extending the series of public spaces, a second entrance for the concert hall is located at the Places des Arts metro station.
The concert space is a double-shell, cantilevered object, enclosed by translucent glass, with wood and plaster inside. The building surrounding the shell is itself structurally and mechanically sophisticated, with a roof supported on concrete stair towers and angled columns. Elevated foyers float within the shell, serving as gathering spaces and access points into the concert space.
In order to root the administrative building in the history of the site, city, and province, a 31-story tower is gracefully inserted between and above two existing warehouse buildings. The tower grows out of and rises above the existing warehouses, engaging them as full-fledged participants in the overall composition without overwhelming them or the site. The powerful concrete facades of the two buildings bound a 25m high lobby.