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2018 MCHAP

Pierre Lassonde Pavilion Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec

OMA New York

Quebec City, Canada

June 2016


OMA New York


Provencher Roy + Associes (Associate Architect)


Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec


Bruce Damonte Iwan Baan


We proposed a sensitive yet complex addition expressed as a single gesture: lift up the park and slide in the building. Required new galleries are stacked in three volumes of decreasing size to create a cascade ascending from the park towards the city. While they step down in section, the gallery boxes step out in plan, framing the existing courtyard of the church cloister and orienting the building towards the park. The park spills into the museum (through skylights and carefully placed windows) and the museum into the park (through the extension of exhibitions to the terraces and the outdoor pop-out staircase). The stacking creates a 14m-high Grand Hall, sheltered under a dramatic 20m cantilever. The Grand Hall serves as an interface to the Grande Allée, an urban plaza for the museum's public functions, and a series of gateways into the galleries, courtyard and auditorium. Complementing the quiet reflection of the gallery spaces, a chain of programs along the museum’s edge offer a hybrid of activities, art and public promenades. Orchestrated views from the monumental spiral stair and the exterior pop out stair reconnect visitors to the park, the city, and the museum campus. Within the boxes, mezzanines and overlooks link the various galleries. On top of each of the gallery boxes, roof terraces provide space for outdoor displays and activities. An underground passageway creates a surprising mixture of gallery spaces that lead the visitor, as if by chance, to the rest of the museum complex.


The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) is not only a museum dedicated to presenting international exhibitions to the Quebecoise and visitors alike but also has a mandate to represent the history of art in Quebec – majority of the museum’s collection represents works produced in Quebec, or by Quebec artists. The existing museum complex was comprised of three pavilions, a former prison from 1867, a beaux-arts building from 1933 and a central pavilion from 1867 that links the two. Most significantly, the museum lies in the historic Battlefields Park and the Plains of Abrahams where the French and British fought a pivotal battle in the Seven Years’ War. The western end of the park is composed of rolling hills and uneven topography, in which the existing pavilions seemingly disappear into nature. For the first time, MNBAQ purchased a site facing the main urban boulevard of the city, posing a unique opportunity to forge a new urban presence. The architectural design of Pierre Lassonde Pavilion, the museum’s fourth addition, builds on the museum’s ambition to reorient towards the city while enhancing dialogue between the historic park and the adjacent neo-Gothic St Dominic’s church. Rather than creating an iconic imposition, the new building forms new links between the park and the city, bringing new coherence to the MNBAQ.


Since the public opening in June 2016, Pierre Lassonde Pavilion has functioned as both a cultural and civic anchor for Quebec City. The unobstructed glass wall entry of the Grand Hall and the public plaza under the cantilever draw the city in and transform into a vibrant public square. The Pierre Lassonde Pavilion has since hosted the Quebec City Biennial, which was held for the first time in the midst of winter, and art walks that activated the outdoor plaza and galleries with public art. Museum attendance has increased and many Quebecoise express pride in the new pavilion. The museum is an active space all year long (through all seasons), providing activity and inspiration throughout the harsh winter. The layered façade is simultaneously structural, thermal and solar, addressing the seemingly contradictory needs of natural light and insulation for Quebec’s climate. The triple layered glass façade is composed a printed frit that pattern mimics the truss structure, a 3D embossed glass, and a layer of diffuser glass. In the galleries, insulated walls are located behind the translucent glass system, with a gap between that lights the building at night like a lantern in the park. For the museum, the Pierre Lassonde has doubled the amount of gallery space, breathing new life into MNBAQ’s collection – nine thousand pieces of contemporary art that have never been exhibited, including large installation art can now be presented. The tunnel, a stealthy passage to the rest of the museum complex now displays Jean-Paul Riopelle’s “Hommage a Rosa Luxemburg”, a 40m triptych that is shown for the first time in a continuous composition.

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