After four years of work, the recent inauguration of the Maison des étudiants de l’École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) unveiled a signature building which enhances an entire neighborhood in the Griffintown district of Quebec, Canada.
Inspired by an icehouse that once stood on the site, the crystal-like volume is remarkably light, open and airy. The mixed-use program was unified into a singular sculpted volume, its offsets interacting in a refreshing way with the more sober and introverted campus buildings. The massing was carved out on its south and east sides to create space for a future park that extends inside the building’s public program, maximizing sunlight and offering the community an abundantly glazed atrium that showcases student life within.
On the street side, it offers mediated views on the upper functions through an intriguing five-storey high image digitally imprinted onto the glass curtain wall. The image is an abstract representation of the energetic network of ideas on the campus evoking the innovative spirit and outreach to the world, which ÉTS intends to project.
Inside, the atrium is conceived as a landscape in continuity with the exterior park. An impressive cantilevered truss, recalling the railway bridges and industrial structures in the area, lifts its grand staircase above the outdoor space on its south side, offering glimpses of Montreal’s cityscape from the park.
A spiraling promenade weaves through the atrium under a warm, hovering topography made of birch wood slats. This inhabited circulation interconnects multiple zones used in everyday student life, each endowed with distinct light and acoustical qualities. Custom furniture such as integrated cushioned nooks, and carefully selected seating typologies punctuate the open space with a wide array of spatial experiences for relaxing, studying and socializing.
The promenade visually and physically ties the campus together, starting with a tunnel link from the adjacent pavilion to the east to reach the student residences through a planned bridge to the west. It constitutes an indoor, year-round park offering an open and central congregating space for large events and exhibitions to both the ÉTS and Griffintown communities.
Location: Griffintown, Quebec, Canada
Architects: Menkès Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux Architectes
Photographs: Stéphane Brugger