Newsam Construction and MXMA Architecture & Design are proud to have given new life to the former RCA Victor Studio located in the Saint-Henri district of Montreal. La Hacienda Creative, a leading Canadian sound design studio, becomes the new occupant of this iconic 4,516 square foot (419 square meter) space. In resurrecting the building, Paul Schapira, head of Newsam Construction, and Maxime Moreau, founding architect of MXMA Architecture & Design, have succeeded in paying homage to the site’s past, while imagining a vibrant future.
LOCATION: RCA Building – 1050 Lacasse Street Suite 312, Montreal, QC SURFACE AREA: 4516 sq ft (419 sq m)
CLIENT: La Hacienda Creative
ARCHITECT / FIRM: MXMA Architecture & Design PROJECT MANAGER: Maxime Moreau, architect TEAM: Isabelle Jolicoeur
COLLABORATORS: Catlin Stothers Design
PROJECT AREA : Administrative building, reconversion and recycling CONTRACTOR : Newsam Construction
PROJECT COMPLETION DATE: 2017
PHOTO CREDIT: Annie Fafard
From the beginning of the project, Alexandre Beaulieu, La Hacienda’s general manager and Brian D’Oliveira, La Hacienda’s creative director were advised by Paul Schapira who proposed a very specialized construction approach for the company’s new premises. The now defunct RCA Victor Canada was originally intended to be one of the most important buildings in the music and sound industry. In the 1940s, the studio was also known for its rare acoustic engineering.
After years of neglect, capturing the historic essence of the space was a formidable challenge, especially given its proximity to a major highway. The intervention of the architect, Maxime Moreau, was urgent.
“The clients wanted to work with an architect with creative ideas,” says Paul Schapira. Maxime and I have worked together on several projects over the past three years and he immediately seemed like the right man for the job.
Once the plans were drawn, MXMA and Newsam tackled the technical challenges of the project, materials, construction processes and design elements. Alexandre Beaulieu was also fully committed to this common goal.
When we decide to work with a client, it’s because they really understand the added value of working closely with an architect,” says Maxime Moreau. Rather than approaching projects from a monetary perspective, we strive to infuse even more passion into the client’s ideas, taking them to a level they thought was out of reach.”
The process begins with taking into account the client’s personality and vision for the project. Moreau believes that a shared vision between the architect and the client is a true catalyst for developing more creative solutions that transcend traditional architecture. From the outset, the strategy was to provide the client with design reference points and layout ideas to allow them to participate in the creative process and in turn strengthen it.
La Hacienda wanted to create an effervescent creative hub and instill a community spirit that would be reflected in the built environment. My vision for La Hacienda was to make it a different kind of studio,” says Brian D’Oliveira. It’s more of a creative space and team than a traditional music studio. It’s an integrated space where you can do all the stages of sound production.”
While Newsam focused on the construction, technical challenges and schedule of the site, the collaboration between all participants continued throughout the project. My role,” explains Maxime Moreau, “was to ensure the aesthetic continuity of the design elements throughout the building. In addition to the design of each room, we had to ensure that the transition between spaces was as seamless as possible.”
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY
The spirit of community is evident from the moment you enter La Hacienda Creative’s new facility, where people feel welcomed in a large, open space that evokes the atmosphere of a living room. Beyond the effective design elements, the instruments hanging on the walls remind each new visitor of the spirit of La Hacienda. The spirit of sharing and connection is also conveyed with a large common sink outside the restrooms and through the huge windows in the studios. The kitchen area, with the large island, is designed to host events. The bleachers allow teams to work in a different thinking space away from their desks. They also encourage open-plan meetings and musical performances, as does the open staircase upstairs. On the other side of the bleachers is the Satellite Room, where the first Canadian satellite was built, and where instrument repairs and transformations take place. Maxime Moreau has transformed this once dark and depressing room into a bright and lively space with the integration of new windows overlooking a south-facing terrace. In addition to providing an abundance of natural light, the windows offer a view of the historic building, also visible from the bleachers, like a flashback to the great era of the sound industry.
RECOVERED AND NEW MATERIALS
In terms of materials, and to stay within budget, Maxime Moreau wanted to keep as much as possible of the existing concrete floors, formerly covered with linoleum tiles. Varnished chipboard panels cover the bleachers and stairs, to recall the complexity of the musical instruments wrapped in wood. Several of the old RCA recording studio doors were salvaged as a design statement. Modern architectural solutions were brought to the Victor Room, the building’s original studio. In addition to new acoustic walls, floors and ceilings, each room was treated to contain sound and isolate it to respect the other tenants of the building. The shape, textures and finishes of the control room were completely redone.
In this project, we brought our expertise in soundproofing and privacy,” notes Maxime Moreau. We have experience in building condos, so the idea of building small boxes within a big box and designing acoustically independent rooms is one of our great strengths.”
This know-how was also applied in the construction of the ceilings, made with springs to absorb vibrations, and in the design of the air conditioning and heating systems: they are extremely discreet and quiet. Despite the abundance of concrete beams and low ceilings, Newsam and MXMA overcame the technical difficulties to create a sound studio like no other; a place for creative sound craftsmen and over 800 instruments.
ABOUT LA HACIENDA
Built in 2007, La Hacienda’s team consists of 10 sound craftsmen who produce projects for video games, television, advertising, museums, virtual reality, events and products. The studio’s goal has always been to shape the world through absolutely unique sounds. Whether using cutting-edge technology or traditional methods, La Hacienda employs a wide range of techniques to achieve an unforgettable result. Over the years, La Hacienda has acquired over 800 instruments that fuel their creative process and drive their projects. The breadth of their collection ensures that no two projects are ever alike. The studio was custom designed to accommodate a modular workflow and facilitate collaboration with their clients. This allows each project to unfold with the client in a fast, creative and collaborative manner.