Pierre Lassonde Pavilion in Quebec, Designed by OMA, Opens to the Press

The fourth building of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) opened today to the press, and on June 24 will open to the public. The project, led by Shohei Shigematsu, is OMA’s first museum in the Americas.

The Pierre Lassonde Pavilion will transform the 83-year-old institution, whose mission is to promote and preserve Quebec art from the 17th Century to today, and to showcase international art in Quebec City. The new 160,000 sq foot (14,900 sq meter) building doubles MNBAQ’s exhibition space while providing a gateway from the Grand Allée into the museum complex and to the scenic National Battefields Park.

Line Ouellet, executive director and chief curator of MNBAQ: “The world heritage site of Quebec City now has a new landmark. Refined and ingenious, the Pierre Lassonde Pavilion succeeds not only in standing out on the architectural level, but especially in becoming a part of its surroundings by making the most of its urban location with a logic that is both implacable and unexpected. Thanks to its spacious exhibition galleries, auditorium, restaurant, bookstore-gift shop and other facilities, it will enable the MNBAQ to fully realize its potential.”

Shohei Shigematsu, OMA partner and director of OMA New York: “Our design stacked three gallery volumes in a cascade that continues the topography of the park. The activity of the city extends below, providing a new point of interface between the city and the park. Art becomes a catalyst that allows the visitor to experience all three core assets – park, city, and museum – at the same time.”

Pierre Lassonde, chair of MNBAQ’s board of directors: “We are delighted to be able to welcome the public in this immense space, brilliantly designed by OMA, which will contribute greatly to giving visibility to Quebec art and artists. Thanks to this magnificently functional addition, one that is also significant on a symbolic level, our Musée has now reached an unrivalled level of service for the citizens of Quebec and is a major attraction for visitors from around the world.”

The project was led by Shigematsu, with Jason Long and Ceren Bingol. Realized in collaboration with Provencher_Roy architectes of Montreal, the Pierre Lassonde Pavilion is OMA’s first building in Canada, and the firm’s first museum in North America. The museum will open to the public on June 24 in celebration of Quebec’s Fete national with three days of festivities and public activities.


Pierre Lassonde Pavilion

The Pierre Lassonde Pavilion—the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec’s fourth building in an increasingly complicated site, interconnected yet disparate—is a subtly ambitious, even stealthy, addition to the city. Rather than creating an iconic imposition, it forms new links between the park and the city, and brings new coherence to the MNBAQ.

The intricate and sensitive context of the new building generated the central questions underpinning the design: How to extend Parc des Champs-de-Bataille while inviting the city in? How to respect and preserve Saint Dominique church while creating a persuasive presence on Grande Allée? How to clarify the museum’s organization while simultaneously adding to its scale? OMA’s solution was to stack the required new galleries in three volumes of decreasing size—temporary exhibitions (50m x 50m), permanent modern and contemporary collections (45m x 35m) and design / Inuit exhibits (42.5m x 25m)—to create a cascade ascending from the park towards the city. The building aims to weave together the city, the park and the museum as an extension of all three simultaneously.

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 curated 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.

The cantilevered structure is supported by a hybrid steel truss system and accommodates galleries uninterrupted by columns. The layered façade is simultaneously structural, thermal and solar, addressing the seemingly contradictory needs of natural light and thermal insulation for Québec’s harsh winter climate. The triple layered glass façade is composed of a 2D 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. The Grand Hall is enclosed by a glass curtain wall with glass fins that allow virtually unobstructed and inviting views to the Charles Baillairgé pavilion through a glass wall and ceiling. The contrast between the translucent gallery boxes and clear grand hall reinforces the reading of the building’s stacking and cantilevering massing.

Complementing the quiet reflection of the gallery spaces, a chain of programs along the museum’s edge—foyers, lounges, shops, bridges, gardens—offer a hybrid of activities, art and public promenades. Along the way, orchestrated views from a monumental spiral stair and an exterior pop out stair reconnect the visitor with the park, the city, and the rest of the museum. Within the boxes, mezzanines and overlooks link the temporary and permanent exhibition spaces. On top of each of the gallery boxes, roof terraces provide space for outdoor displays and activities.

The new building provides a 90% increase in exhibition surfaces, connected to the museum’s existing buildings by a passageway rising 8.2m over its 130m length, creating a permanent home for the museum’s 40m “Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg” by Jean-Paul Riopelle. Through its sheer length and changes in elevation, the passage creates a surprising mixture of gallery spaces that lead the visitor, as if by chance, to the rest of the museum complex.