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Built in 1968, the original secondary school depicts a typical expression of the modern architecture of that time: a six-story curtain wall structure sitting on a one story concrete base. Both in terms of height and material language, the building stands out within its residential surrounding of three story brick-clad row houses. The project mandate to re-program the interiors to accommodate the Conservatory created an opportunity to resolve certain problematic building elements including lack of natural light, chaotic internal circulation, and poor urban integration.
Inserted within a total area 11,000 square meters are mostly teaching and practice studios as well as three auditoriums: a concert hall (232 seats), recital hall (110 seats), and theatre (224seats), along with associated support spaces, such as, lobbies, dressing rooms, storage areas, an orchestral rehearsal room, an operatic theatre, a multimedia room, television and radio recording studios, listening and viewing rooms, and administrative and recreational student spaces.
The spaces contained within the ground fl oor and the single story beneath, are conceived to flow along a continuous circulation artery which links the principal entry hall with all three lobbies. Demolition of vertical partitions, openings in the fl oor plate and an existing glass atrium, allow natural light to penetrate this entire path, offering a luminous quality and simplifying orientation.
The existing building is both internally and externally re-vamped. Pierced by the main entry hall at the ground level and by the views from the interior windows of the studios above, the interior vertical lobby space is newly dressed with its surfaces wrapped in a printed pattern of enlarged wood grain. On the exterior, a verse from Quebec poet Gaston Miron is reproduced as giant text of subtle tonal contrast to the austere concrete panels, spanning their entire height as if a careful, deliberate expression of urban graffi ti. This treatment adds rhythm and scale that harmonizes the building with its context and offers it a new identity exposing its artistic vocation. The planted vines along this base create a natural, colorful screen through which to read the text with the changing of seasons. On the roof of the lower volume, between the original building and the new addition of translucent glazing to the south, a terraced garden is inserted, adding a green component for the users and the environment alike.
Particular technical solutions were necessary to reconcile the demands of the program with the existing conditions, such as, obtaining the required level of humidity to accommodate the instruments, providing the varying degrees of sound isolation, and attaining the optimal sound levels in the different studios in terms of reverberation time. In order to respect the elevated humidity level required in the studios and to avoid damaging the existing envelop which required a lower humidity level, two separate ventilation zones were created by introducing peripheral circulation corridors along the perimeter of the main volume, placing the studios away from the exterior curtain wall.
Photographer: Vladimir Topouzanov