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La Grande Bibliothèque Du Québec

Part 2 Project 2001
Michael Hall
McGill University, Montreal Montreal Canada
La Grande Bibliothèque du Québec is the new national library of Québec. This library houses both open stacks and the national archives. It is an institution that serves both the local community of Montreal as well as the province of Québec. As such it must strengthen the urban fabric of the surrounding city while simultaneously representing the culture of the Québecois people.

In order to support the city and its community the design solution is a strong and generous public place. We are currently witnessing the erasure of public space in Canada. The rise of shopping malls, the privatization of former public institutions, the increasing predominance of placeless digital media, and the centralization of media all serve to erase the public realm and weaken the local communities in which we live and can affect change. In response to this the ground floor of the library is devoted to public activity and opens up in every direction to the surrounding city. This not only allows the topography of the city to continue, but for the life and activity of the city to fill the library. The library thereby becomes a site for congregation, debate, presentation, and culture in which citizens nurture the community in which they live.

La Grande Bibliothèque du Québec is also an important cultural icon. The building design presents an image, which is appropriate to its place and culture. The large copper roof and stone cladding are local materials, which also have historical use in public buildings. In addition these materials offer both the physical and psychological shelter necessary in harsh Montréal winters. The tectonic of the building is a built confirmation of the culture’s commitment to an ongoing and evolving culture, and the importance of learning and archiving this culture for future generations.

Michael Hall


This project of la Grande Bibliothèque du Québec is a thoughtful handling of a large and complex program. Embracing a project of such a monumental and culturally relevant project is a courageous act. In addition, Michael had the perseverance to execute a skilful design well suited to the city of Montreal and the culture of Québec.

The project began with thorough research into the program of the library, the urban fabric of Montréal, and the history of public buildings in Québec. Included in this research was a careful analysis of the site and the surrounding neighbourhood. As a result the design solution involved free movement across the site, and an exterior passage through the middle of the building. The pedestrian experience is further enhanced with arcaded sidewalks and full views into the exhibition hall. In this manner the building acts to improve the urban character of the area.

The upper stories of the library are a beautifully resolved arrangement of library services. Skylights, stairways, service spaces, book stacks are organized to create a promenade rich in experience which orients the user of the library and lays the full contents of the library open to view. The reader is also provided with a series of double height and single height reading rooms, which are cleverly insulated from the circulation space by the service band.

This design project expresses an enduring and public presence while remaining welcoming. Although thoroughly contemporary in appearance, the facades of this design resonate with the architectural heritage of Quebec. The project resolves the complexity of site, program and image in a rigorous manner. The result is a poetic building sensitive to the city and the culture in which it is created.

2001
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