The Grande Bibliothèque du Québec, the winning entry in an international design competition, consolidates a number of collections dispersed throughout the province to create a resource library for the region as well as a central public library for the city of Montreal. Four hundred thousand square feet in size, the building contains four major components: a general library, a children’s library, the collection Québécoise (historic documents pertaining to Quebec), and an assortment of public spaces outside the library control zone. The building is located in Montreal’s Latin Quarter, between boulevard de Maisonneuve and rue Ontario, diagonally opposite the green space of place du Quartier. Below grade, the library is joined to a major intersection in the Montreal metro system.
The street and the subway system are separate but equally important public spaces. The project knits these spaces together to engage the energies of each. Typically, the security issues associated with libraries dictate a single entry, but a sole point of access tends to have a deadening effect on surrounding public spaces. In the Grande Bibliothèque, city and subway pedestrian routes are connected at street level and at metro level, and the building has multiple public entrances to intersect with the capillaries of the city.
The street and metro levels of the library form an expanded ground plane with public facilities on both levels. Library spaces that do not require library control—exhibition space, auditorium, conference center and meeting rooms, catering services, gift shop, public lobby, and café—are located along pedestrian routes to foster a broader public engagement. As part of a larger strategy of urban revitalization, avenue Savoie, a narrow lane on the west side of the building, is lined with bouquinistes (very small second-hand bookshops) and display vitrines.
Visual continuity and unexpected adjacencies encourage serendipitous connections. A sunken court provides daylight to below-grade spaces and links the street and metro levels at a significant scale. The public space of the city and the public space of the library activate and support each other, energizing and enriching the idea of a new cultural space in Montreal.
The two major library collections, the general library and the collection Québécoise, are housed above the lower floors within large-scale wooden containers. Each is characterized by a specific relationship to associated reading spaces. In the general library, the collection is centrally located, with reading spaces at its edges that have access to views and daylight. In the collection Québécoise, it is reading spaces that are in the center, in a grand toplit room formed by the collection that lines its perimeter.
Linking the wood-clad collections to the expanded ground plane is a promenade that first rises from the primary library control point to the entrance of the collection Québécoise then continues upward to circumnavigate the general library through a series of reading rooms. Views of the city unfold as the route ascends. Complementing the promenade is an efficient central system of elevators and stairs. A glass and copper building envelope represents the library as a whole. Opaque in some places, diaphanous in others, the facade offers enticing glimpses of the library to the city.
Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada Architect: Patkau / Croft Pelletier / Menkès Shooner Dagenais architectes associés Patkau Architects Team: Laura Arpiainen, Greg Boothroyd, Stephan Chevalier, Michael Cunningham, Dominique Dumais, Michael Elkan, Samantha Hayes, John Patkau, Patricia Patkau, Peter Suter, Craig Simms, Nick Sully Croft Pelletier Architectes Team: Marie-Chantal Croft, Eric Pelletier, Jean Chrétien, Benoît Ruelland, Michel Thompson, Olivier Grenier, Cédéanne Simard, Rémi Hovington Jr. Menkès Shooner Dagenais Team: Yves Dagenais, Gaétan Roy, Stephan Chevalier, Yvon LaChance, Luc Doucet, Dominique Dumais, Catherine Bélanger, Guillaume Delorimier, Luc Montpetit, Mana Hemami, Andrea Macelwee, Alex Parmentier, Christine Giguère, Alain Boudrias, Harvens Piou Client: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec Consultants Consulting Architect: Gilles Guité architecte
Architectural Support: Jodoin Lamarre Pratte et Associés architectes
Structural Engineer: Regroupement Nicolet Chartrand Knoll Limitée / Les Consultants Géniplus inc.
Mechanical / Electrical Engineer: Regroupement Bouthillette & associés inc / Groupe HBA experts-conseils inc.
Lighting Consultants: NBBJ
Acoustic Consultant: Legault Davidson
Theatre Consultant: Scenoplus
Elevator Consultant: KJA inc.
Building Envelope Consultant: Patenaude Consultants inc.
Code Consultant: Technorm inc.
Landscape Architects: Scheme Consultants
Builder: Hervé Pomerleau inc. Photographs: James Dow, Bernard Fougeres, Patkau Architects