The Grand Théâtre de Québec’s restoration project has been awarded four awards of excellence. Two were presented by the Ordre des architects du Québec—the jury’s highest honours and the public’s choice. SAB Magazine also recognized the project with the Green Building Award and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) for its innovative prowess.
Prized for its brutalist architecture, the Grand Théâtre de Québec is a cultural icon; Lemay and Atelier 21 were tasked with restoring and protecting the building’s crumbling outer shell and its emblematic Bonet mural inside.
The new envelope responds to a complex problem. In developing corrective measures for the building’s many weaknesses, the transdisciplinary team produced a sustainable, innovative solution: adding a transparent, glass curtain wall to the concrete structure.
The glass casing was carefully designed in continuity with the structure developed by the original architect Victor Prus, and the mural work of Jordi Bonet, enshrined in Prus’ protective outer shell.
“Discrete and almost immaterial at times, it reflects its surroundings and becomes the main interface with the city, adding an additional theatrical act in the discovery of this significant Québécois work,” Lemay said in a press release.
The thin wall of protective glass in the design shields the Grand Théâtre from the elements by creating a secondary, tempered envelope housing a low-flow heat recovery and thermal mass system. The system is both energy-efficient and economical. Beyond its primary function, the new layer acts as an extension of the original building it protects, using the same structural logic and composition.
Any alteration to the architecture had to be severely limited, said Eric Pelletier, architect and design principal at Lemay. The building’s fragility paired with the inability to directly access the concrete anchors posed a major challenge—with work on the building proceeding during normal daytime and evening theatre operations.
“Similar to a play having been written 50 years ago, we had to revitalize le Grand Théâtre using a new script that would resonate with a new generation, all while respecting and embracing Prus’ original work,” said Pelletier.