Prized for its brutalist architecture by Victor Prus, the Grand Théâtre de Québec, inaugurated in 1970, required a major intervention to restore and protect its prefabricated concrete indoor and outdoor walls, as well as a historic mural by Jordi Bonet, intimately intertwined with them. Moisture infiltration had caused severe disintegration of the concrete panels and their anchors.
The concrete icon reflects the end of the Quiet Revolution in Quebec; the Bonet mural is one of the largest in the world. The fragility of the work and the inability to directly access the anchors required a radical solution.
The innovative glass casing is a delicate response to a complex problem. Transparent, minimalist and almost immaterial, it acts as an extension of the original building, using the same finely tuned structural logic and composition; in fact, the brutalist lines and artistic narrative are even more striking, thanks to Lemay’s subtle solution. The glass can appear solid or immaterial depending on the light, sometimes blurring the boundaries of the building; it fades, disappears, reflects, illuminates, articulating the project discreetly and sensitively. Amplified according to the building’s morphology, it leaves the concrete masterpiece intact and perfectly visible.
Energy-efficient and economical, the casing shields the Grand Théâtre from the elements by creating a secondary, tempered envelope housing a low-flow heat recovery and thermal mass system. Resultingly constant interior temperature and humidity levels (crucial for preserving the musical instruments inside) spare the external concrete panels, their integrated mural and their supporting anchors from any further degradation.
The construction systems put forward were almost all custom-designed, with a delicate steel structure and myriad components requiring intense and sustained reflection and teamwork among architects, engineers, construction specialists and manufacturers. Together, they produced an entirely new architectural solution that heralds a new act for Quebec culture.
The Grand Théâtre de Québec was awarded the RAIC innovation award. Its new glass envelope has been recognized as a truly innovative solution from an architectural, structural and mechanical point of view, that will ensure the long-term sustainability of a central piece of Quebec City’s modern heritage.
The highly innovative project contributes to an advancement of the practice of architecture as it relates to the challenges posed by the preservation of our modern heritage. Our transdisciplinary approach is the result of transversal research by mechanical engineers, structural engineers, architects, architectural historians and the client. Each discipline had to find innovative ways to reduce the impact of the intervention and push boundaries to conceive a simple, efficient solution that respected Prus’s work.
All photo credits: © Stephane Groleau
Article courtesy of lemay