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16 NEWS


closed in 1931 and transformed in 1944 into a public library and a concert and lecture hall for the Institut Canadien. The latter was closed to the public in 1999. The new Maison de la littérature offered to the Institut the opportunity to pursue its mission, while remaining one of the oldest public libraries in the province of Québec.


An addition with a strangely familiar shape


© Chevalier Morales Architectes PUBLIC LIBRARY


House of Literature opens in Québec


The Maison de la littérature (House of Literature) is located in the historic neighbourhood of Old Québec, a site part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List. In this dense urban setting, Chevalier Morales designed a contemporary annex to the Wesley Temple, a neo-Gothic heritage church. Since its opening, the Maison de la littérature has rapidly become a “vibrant” home to Québec literature and a popular tourist destination in Old Québec. Stemming from an architecture competition, the winning project by Chevalier Morales proposed an unforeseen solution, a response “exceeding the initial commission’s expectations”. The architects


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chose to move part of the program into a new annex outside the church space to provide a more transparent and universal entrance. This strategy also helped declutter Wesley


Temple, allowing the architects to preserve and restore the original spatiality of the overall structure. Along with the library spaces, the Maison de la littérature’s unique and innovative program also includes a concert/lecture hall, a cafe, a temporary exhibition space, a permanent exhibition, a resident writer’s apartment, creation studios, a projection room, a classroom as well as a multimedia studio. The Wesley Temple, built in 1848, was


The partly transparent and “strangely familiar” shape of the new annex gives an open, contemporary feel to the Institut Canadien de Québec, the main entrance of which is now accessed from the bottom of the sloping Chaussée des Écossais where it intersects with Rue St-Stanislas. The outer shell of the facade is made of glass panels with an underlayer of perforated brass sheets, which compose an intriguing bas-relief. The glass annex also reflects its surroundings, integrating itself carefully, without mimicry, into the historic urban context of Old Québec. The extension, which in its dialectic relationship with the original temple brings the institution fully into the 21st century houses the main creative spaces in the upper levels. All the necessary mechanical spaces are also found in the basement of the new addition. The idea of putting the creative spaces outside the temple while maintaining a close connection to it “seemed symbolically appropriate”. Slightly detached, the annex’s views of the river and the old city “offer a great sense of freedom”.


The multiple paths of freedom The institution’s interior layout provides greater access via the main door of the temple as well as the car park that also leads into the annex. These various access options all converge at the large circular opening in the library’s floor under the hanging contemporary light fixture at the heart of the building, which vertically connects the cafe, two exhibition areas, and the library collections.


Through the annex the architects were able to restore the Salle de l’Institut, a cultural and intellectual hotspot in Québec City for the second half of the 20th century. With its circular shape and multiple levels, the new concert and lecture hall can be isolated through concentric and sliding acoustic panels integrated into the ceiling. The space is technically equipped to host conferences, plays, intimate concerts, and public presentations.


ADF APRIL 2019


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