Montreal, Canada, 2010-06-13 -
Instead of considering the new Saint-Laurent Library as ‘a gateway into Marcel-Laurin Park’, we would rather imagine that it would become part of the park, in the heart of the boisé. In our opinion, the nature/culture dichotomy that leads to think that parks are green oasis’s completely separated from the urban world by defined boundaries no longer corresponds to the aspirations of Montreal’s citizens. The desire to make the city greener expands to streets, back alleys, backyards and rooftops and associates this willingness to sustainable design, quality of life and overall improvement of the city’s vegetal coverage. Visiting the library can then become part of an immersive experience that contributes to this desire while offering a favourable environment for reading.
The buildings fragmented geometry allows it to blend into the existing forest, preserving more than 85% of the larger trees. In an effort to contribute to the regeneration of the boisé, now mostly composed of cottonwoods that have a life span of about twelve years, and to contribute to its biodiversity, we have proposed the planting of new varieties of trees. The boisé’s perimeter would then be stretched to the main Boulevard so that the library could be set in the heart of the forest.
The path leading to the entrance prolongs Todd Street and provides a stop for cyclists and hikers where they’ll not only find shade, but benches, bike racks, public art and animation. This path is made of paved bands that allow ground covers to grow through. This area would also allow for the production of green energy and create a vegetal filter. Geothermic wells are marked by LED light posts that use solar energy. Rainwater retention surfaces are also designed to become part of the humid zones already present in Marcel-Laurin Park. The library project offers an opportunity to create a green energy themed garden that would become a showcase of the best sustainable practices for people visiting the park recreationally or for those who walk by daily. Generous windows allow the user of the building to have constant visual contact with the surrounding forest. In order to respect severe aerial noise constraints and to obtain the LEED-Gold certification, a high-performance building envelope had to be designed. The curtain walls equipped with triple glazed sealed units offers reduced low frequency sound transmission. As for the rooftops, green roofs help reduce surrounding sounds of airplanes passing overhead.
A second building envelope made of perforated wood panels is inspired from the forests leafage that diffracts strong sunlight and contributes to buffing ambient sounds; it acts as a light and sound filter that contributes to creating a calm atmosphere favourable for reading. Suspended from the ceiling and hung to the glass walls, these panels are mounted on pivots that allow easy cleaning of the surfaces behind and are mostly located in public and reading areas. Patterned fritted glass also contributes to diffract sunlight. By layering both the laser-cut wood pattern and pixelized glass pattern with outdoor perforated aluminium panels, an ornamental motif is generated. The new library is therefore discreetly camouflaged into the forest.
Public functions and services gravitate around the glass pavilion which is the main entrance hall. Not only is it easily accessible from the entrance path and the parking, it also gives direct access to the existing walking paths of Marcel-Laurin Park. The children’s library is located on the ground floor with reading areas around an enclosed courtyard, an outdoor space designed around mature trees and gated by vegetation and perforated aluminium panels on the Boulevard. This space could be used for the library’s animation activities. A windowed passage through the forest connects the children’s library, to the main service counter of the adult’s library. The adult’s library sits above the canopy allowing readers to literally be in the trees. The Boisé Room is designed like a tree house mounted on a trunk. The Languages and Culture Room has skylights that are covered by perforated wood panels. All other rooms are adjacent to green roofs. The space dedicated to teenagers cantilevers over the enclosed courtyard. That being said, the entire building is designed to insure the user has constant visual contact with the surrounding nature and to give the feeling of always being in the park.
The project also includes museum storage for the city which has been placed close to the loading dock and under the adult’s library. This space is simple, rectangular and functional. Certain artefacts from the city’s collections could be temporarily exposed in the adjacent secondary hall or else where in the building’s exhibition cabinets in order to contribute making the library a lively and dynamic space.
The Periodical Room and the space used for selling books in the secondary hall also contributes making the library a public animated space, perfect for cultural exchanges while preserving a calm atmosphere associated to the delicate light of the boisé which is the key to the new library’s identity.