Prized for its brutalist architecture by Victor Prus and historic mural by Jordi Bonet, the Grand Théâtre de Québec is a prized cultural icon that embodies Quebec’s Quiet Revolution. Inaugurated in 1970, its mural is among the largest in the world.
Studio Name: Lemay + Atelier 21
Eric Pelletier, architect, Lead Design
Christian Bernard, architect, Lead Associate
Area: Québec city, Canada
Location: 269 Bd René-Lévesque E, Québec, QC G1R 2B3
Client : Société du Grand Théâtre de Québec
General Contractor: Pomerleau
Glass and fixture design engineering: ELEMA experts-conseils
Experts in materials engineering: SIMCO
Steel Structure : Métal-Presto
Lighting designers : Lemay & Atelier 21, Guy Simard et Lumenpulse
Photography Credits: Stephane Groleau
Concrete indoor and outdoor walls are the theatre’s defining feature, and 60% of the interior is cloaked by the Bonet mural. In the decades since the theatre’s initial commissioning, moisture had caused the concrete panels’ anchors to disintegrate, and the need to restore and protect the building’s crumbling outer shell had become timely and pressing.
The project’s refurbishment required in-depth consideration of the building’s two distinguishing components: its modernist architecture and its historic sculpted work. Our team explored how to create a subtle yet holistic reflection of the intertwined entities. Any modification to the architecture had to be limited; the building’s fragility, and the inability to directly access the concrete anchors, were major challenges; and the project had to be fast-tracked, with work on the building proceeding during the day and evening theatre operations. Coordination with multiple levels of decision-makers was vital.
The glass casing is a delicate solution to a complex problem. The new skin sensitively and discreetly protects, and also articulates, the building. Amplified according to the theatre’s morphology, it revolves at the corners; it lifts at the base; leaving the concrete work intact and visible. It can appear solid or immaterial, depending on the light, sometimes even blurring.
The brutalist lines and artistic narrative are even more striking thanks to the ecological and functional solution. It has become the main interface with the City, true to its theatrical pedigree: produced an entirely new architectural solution that heralds a new act for Quebec culture.