Pierrefonds Library

Montreal, Canada

Building exterior ©2021 Chevalier Morales
Building exterior ©2021 Chevalier Morales

Conceived as a cross between a park and a shopping centre, which are third highly frequented places, the Pierrefonds library innovates through the ecosystem vision it implements. It is as interested in the various programs it houses as in the relationship between these programs. A true network of social and informational exchanges, all these relationships take shape in a complex circulation structure that makes it possible to renew the library’s experience with each visit.

The design of the Pierrefonds library also innovates in its relationship to the landscape, its discreet technological approach but actively participating in the scenography of the places and the enhancement of the collections. The latter are structured by thematic poles in order to increase their accessibility.

“The planning of the complex is inspired by the economic pragmatism of shopping malls, train stations and airports while avoiding to reproduce the disadvantages.”

Building exterior ©2021 Chevalier Morales
Building exterior ©2021 Chevalier Morales

A cross between an ideal park and a shopping center

The architects discovered, among the old urban plans of the borough of Pierrefonds-Roxboro, a graphic representation of the main criteria for the development of the borough’s green spaces. This drawing, that of an idealized park, without a precise site, presents a division into zones according to age groups and the type of activity: green spaces, relaxation areas, play areas, exchange networks, etc. In short, a real plan for the development of a library.

The in-depth study of this document as well as the manipulation and reorganization of these different types of spaces, including green spaces, will have made it possible to lay the first foundations of the project. This is how the interior garden appeared, designed by an extraction process, which makes it possible to bring natural light and part of the woodland to the center of the project, while constituting an organizational pole and reference for the users and employees of the library.

The other typology studied was that of the shopping center, certainly much criticized, but nevertheless typical of suburban environments. A formless building, obeying functional and economic imperatives, the shopping center presents one or more nerve centers. These centres, real places of exchange and various activities, are almost always topped by a large well of natural light to support the composition.

Another important feature of shopping centres is the traffic network fed by multiple entrances and forcing certain obligatory passages. Thus, the stairs suspended in the central atriums are often deliberately reversed in order to lengthen the visitor’s journey. This typology is of interest for the organization of the library since it implements many of the spatial qualities that are sought in the creation of a third place: free movement of users, flexibility in the organization of spaces, movements and plural experiences.

The organization of the project in its configuration in “wings” converging on a meeting space, its network of crossed stairs, the bleacher, the openings in the floors allowing visual connections, the multitude of skylights and the civic space are directly inspired by the typology of shopping centers. The periphery of the building, usually populated by parking lots, and its opaque walls have been replaced here by green spaces and glass curtain walls.

On a formal level, the project obeys similar constraints and is modulated according to the forces in place. Instead of being purely economic and functional, the shape of the building is sometimes attracted by the desire to manifest its urban presence on the Boulevard de Pierrefonds and to get closer to the adjacent woodland, sometimes in a hurry to retract in order to highlight the islands of greenery present on the site.

The inclusion in the library program of a manufacturing laboratory, a multimedia laboratory and a central socialization space, including coffee, also reflect the project’s vision of offering a civic space with multiple services and intended for all audiences.

White transparency and structural lightness

The forms and materials of the project are simple and destined to disappear to highlight the landscapes, users and contents. The white thus presents a neutral canvas on the background from which stands out the landscape and its changing colors as well as the visitors and the documents that inhabit displays and shelves. The white surfaces – walls, ceilings and shelving – also make it possible to reflect and multiply the natural light that enters through the large curtain walls, the inner courtyard, the glass roof above the bleacher as well as the multiple skylights that pierce the roof. Also, even in dark weather, the library remains bright. On the second floor, the concrete floor covered with pale yellow epoxy, the oak wood bleacher and the brightly colored furniture balance the effects of an all-white space and help to give a warm hue to the spaces.

The building is wrapped in an enamelled curtain wall system punctuated by white aluminum sections. Some glass panels are screen-printed to create a smooth transition between transparency and opacity. The interior envelope is also textured: perforated aluminum panels are located on the floor and ceiling and serve as a distribution to the ventilation system.

The slab of the floor is candevered over almost the entire perimeter of the building. The impression of lightness of the whole represented a structural challenge that was solved by making the floor slab appear as thin as possible. The steel structure was developed in collaboration with the structural engineers, especially the canopy above the bleachers facing the wooded area.

Eventually, the new building extends around the old library. The junction between the envelope of the new building and the existing façade was another technical and aesthetic challenge. Several bricks were recovered to create partitions reminiscent of the contours of the old building inside. The integration of the memory of the original library into the new project was fundamental.

Distribution and organization of collections

In line with the library approach to organizing collections into thematic poles desired by the client, the architects have developed an approach that gives priority to individuals and the interaction between them. They initially opted for a fairly dense organization of the collections in order to clear the center of the spaces as much as possible and accentuate the shape of the plan without obstructing the interesting views.

It was proposed in a second step to place in the central spaces thus cleared a multitude of thematic islands allowing the merchandising of the collections in the manner of bookstores. Like a park where everyone occupies a place that suits them, these central spaces are organic and contain more or less intimate sub-spaces according to the desire of each.

Building Department ©2021 Chevalier Morales
Building Department ©2021 Chevalier Morales


 Site Plan ©2021 Chevalier Morales
Site Plan ©2021 Chevalier Morales
Ground Floor ©2021 Chevalier Morales
Ground Floor ©2021 Chevalier Morales

Program Datas

Architect Company Chevalier Morales
Location Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Client City of Montreal
Surface 4550 m2
Construction cost C$17.5M
Sustainability LEED Gold Certification (target)
Principal architects Stephan Chevalier, Sergio Morales,François Lemoine
Architects Alexandre Massé, Julie Rondeau, Gabriel Lanthier, Céline Leclerc, Christian Aubin, Ève Beaumont-Cousineau, Catherine St-Marseille, Simon Barrette, Geneviève Riopel
Consultants Bouthillette Parizeau, SDK, Laurence team, Landscape version
Photographer Chevalier Morales

Editing : Bamboo, ©️FULLDES authorized publishing, copyright from the Author, Image copyright from the photographer or Company.

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