Québec armoury restoration combines modern and heritage architecture

The restoration of the Voltigeurs de Québec Armoury required extensive conservation work as well as construction of a contemporary addition to the original building. Photo © Stéphane Groleau
The restoration of the Voltigeurs de Québec Armoury required extensive conservation work as well as construction of a contemporary addition to the original building.
Photo © Stéphane Groleau

The Voltigeurs de Québec Armoury has reopened a decade after a fire caused extensive damage to the building. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) engaged a consortium comprising Architecture49, DFS Architecture and Design, and St-Gelais Montminy + Associés / Architectes (STGM) to design and execute the reconstruction work.

The reconstruction project was launched in 2011. The work required extensive conservation work on the armoury’s interior and exterior masonry walls and its plaster elements, wooden doors and windows, as well as construction of a new copper-clad roof and a complex addition to the original building.

The 2008 fire and subsequent curetage revealed vestiges, signs of aging, and old outlines worthy of being expressed and highlighted through the rehabilitation project. The intent behind this approach was to preserve the site’s history, architectural profile, and ambiance. The plan was not aimed at performing a superficial, selective restoration of certain elements, but at revealing the original outlines and intentions behind each stratum of the past, to achieve a thorough understanding of the armoury’s features. Thus, for example, plaster elements were stabilized and masonry was left exposed where it had been revealed by the fire and the subsequent removal of damaged interior finishes.

The armoury is one of Canada’s finest examples of chateau-style architecture, with its wall dormers, pepperpot turrets, buttresses, massive stone masonry, and imposing copper roof topped with a ridge crown. All these elements were reconstructed in a manner consistent with the original plans, but compliant with current technical standards.

To facilitate the retention of heritage designations, and to optimize the facilities, the building was expanded through the addition of contemporary elements, such as the west wing to house federal offices and the lobby on one side of the building. In creating these elements, the team integrated contemporary architecture, visually distinct from the existing structure, while taking care to choose materials consistent with those used in the original building.

The project brief included a mandate to provide access to the public spaces of the armoury. The designers opted to create an elegant footbridge across the 1913-’14 wing, conceived as a transition allowing visitors to appreciate the walls and masonry on either side as they enter the commemorative hall. The wing was completely renovated to accommodate the Voltigeurs de Québec regimental offices.

The lobby is characterized by a column structure and engineered-wood bridging with hidden connections. Its envelope is made of limestone masonry.

The main space in the central building, which had been a drill hall before the fire, has been converted into a multifunctional room. The decision to reconstruct the room’s roof with an exposed wooden structure gives users a glimpse of the drill hall as it appeared when it was originally built in 1885. The engineers and architects designed an exposed timber-truss structure, without columns, adapted to the space’s new operational conditions. The interior brick walls have been left exposed, and new finishes highlight the original elements, while maintaining appropriate restraint.

The west wing is clad in stone masonry. Thin copper vertical blinds were strategically inserted in front of the curtain walls, recessed from the wing’s lower envelope, enhancing the space’s openness to the landscape while reducing the harshness of direct sunlight.

There were numerous challenges such as reconstruction of a fire ruin, functional requirements, decontamination, meticulous heritage conservation work, structural reinforcement and building-code compliance upgrades. As a result, more than 700 people were involved with the project at every step, from planning to construction, and nearly 70,000 hours of work were required for architectural services alone.

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