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Urban Shadow: Institute Of Art And Design

Part 2 Project 2001
Nadia Meratla
Christopher Schulte
McGill University, Montreal Montreal Canada
The premise of “Urban Shadow” relies upon a concrete faith in urbanism as the basis for this religion of Architecture. In designing an Institute of Art and Design, the evolution of applying this program to this premise became a rigid doctrine that served to nourish the exploration of urbanistic principles in an attempt to redefine the nature of institution. As a direct statement against the synthetic bohemia that has polluted the Old Port of Montreal (Canada), the site selected spans one block between two principal streets in this area and faces the majestic historical monument Marché Bonsecours. The insertion of an institution acknowledges that it is indeed due time that architecture rise to embrace the challenge of complementing this urban domain on a less seasonal basis.

As a site in the shadows of the urban fabric, it offers an interesting dynamic to the concept of an Art School that is reclusive yet engaged, somewhat visible yet with an element of discovery. Stricken with a peculiar irregular geometry that is the envy of its orthogonal neighbours, a residual garden that flanks the entire block creates an interior elevation and orientation to the siting of this project. This longitudinal garden defines a particular response to the broader urban domain and is designed as an overflow of the artists’ interior workspaces. Similar to that of the lane behind a blacksmith’s shop, the “alley” is loosely structured to engage the potential of a sculpture garden and junkyard. Architecturally, the premise of this thesis was an investigation of exploiting the very Montréalais “Mitoyen” skeleton into the program in order to articulate the regular rhythm of studios laterally and create the mystical “wall-with-depth” on the longitudinal circulation spine. The depth presented an opportunity to extend the public gallery on the street throughout the building as a “cadaver chamber” with recesses in the wall for the work that is generated by the students. In certain considered areas, these recesses expand to become benched niches for conversation, in others to store the products of artistic endeavours. With a more neutral treatment of studios, the intention was to articulate the public communal areas of the building and sober the working domains of the artists in order to foster creativity. Throughout the development of Urban Shadow, the basis of designing with the larger urban fabric in the spirit of the project became the premise of redefining “institution” and the obligation of architecture to complement an urban fabric.

Nadia Meratla
Christopher Schulte


Nadia is an exceptionally intelligent and sensitive person who is continuously trying to improve herself, to learn about her craft and about architectural theory. She makes every effort to sensitize herself to the numerous movements and ideas that have shaped contemporary architecture. She is self-motivated, methodical in her approach to design and to problem solving. She is also an exacting craftsperson.

First and foremost, Nadia is a true student of architecture: someone interested in reaching beyond usual professional problem solving issues. She is concerned with the meaning and the purpose of buildings, with their contextual relationships and their social implications. She also possesses amazingly strong computer and computer graphics skills.

Finally, Nadia is a kind person, always willing to help others, to participate in class discussions or collective tasks and to assume responsibilities. Her leadership qualities come from a visible commitment, consideration for others, a sense of ethics and a reasoned approach to her metier.

Nadia's design for the INSTITUTE OF ART AND DESIGN is the synthesis of three clearly articulated concerns: for the definition of the urban form, for the resolution of a complex programmatic brief, and for tectonic investigation. Urbanistically, the design of the Institute becomes an exploration into contextualism as an ideology of significant linkages and relationships with a fragment of a very complex and urban fabric. Programmatically, the project is an essay on the definition and the nature of the modern educational institution. Tectonically, the design addresses issues of structure and construction, of complementarity, and of a means to enunciate formal compositional ideas.

Although the projects deal with all these concerns most successfully, it goes well beyond the resolution of a well-stated problem. It suggests a modern way of looking at the traditional city in terms of its movement, morphology, public and semi-public realms, and spatial organization. The project is dealt with as a relevant counterpoint to an historic precinct that has, over the years, been gentrified in a most conservative manner. In other words, the project speaks of the city of yesterday using a language of today. It adds a new layer on the already the rich urban texture of Old Montreal.

2001
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