BGLA + Smith Vigeant architectes Inc. in Consortium
Smith Vigeant Architects Inc. and BGLA | architecture + urban design in consortium completed the expansion of the Christ-Roi Elementary School, located in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville Borough. The expansion added three new floors, which include: nine classrooms, a kindergarten, a daycare service, and a gymnasium.
Creating a harmonious composition, the extension incorporates the principles of the existing building and redefines the school’s relationship with its context. On the street, a sculpted volumetry announces the new hall, as well as the social and active functions. On the courtyard side, transparency and colour are more expressed, offering a personalized character to the institution, respecting its initial pavilion.
The two buildings are built around a vast central staircase covered in natural light and the radiance of colours. The staircase clearly ensures the new links with the existing school while providing a comfortable and fun socializing space. The entrance hall, by its size and opening, creates a generous and friendly transition space between the neighbourhood, the daycare service, and the schoolyard.
In order to have a harmonious implementation, the extension follows the existing building principles: a simple rectangular volume with a brick facade. The proportions of which are dictated by a typical class floor, of standard dimensions, with a central corridor.
An open and interactive place
The ground floor of the expansion is developed in a more open and dynamic way. It establishes functional and convivial links with the existing building, the schoolyard, the street, and the neighbourhood. A series of subtractions sculpt the volume to define significant and functional places, namely: the new reception hall and its large exterior forecourt, the daycare service connected to both the street and the schoolyard, as well as the gymnasium, also asserting its presence in the neighbourhood and in the courtyard.
Connection and centrality
It is through the central hall that the new and old connect. Located in the centre of the newly enlarged school, the hall acts as a hub for traffic and links between floors, the neighbourhood and the schoolyard.
Offering generous transparency between the reception area on Lajeunesse Street and the schoolyard, the hall provides a luminous common area, connecting the corridors of the old and the new. In addition to facilitating orientation within the new wing, this central hall assures a better understanding of the place and its environment.
Volumetry, materials, and active design
The facade on Lajeunesse Street affirms the institutional character of the building. To keep a coherent whole, a similar brick facade was chosen. The modulation of the facade marks three major entities of the project in the public space, namely: the new hall and the main entrance to the daycare service, as well as the gymnasium. The ground floor is deliberately more open on the new schoolyard, contributing also to a lively relation at the street level, thus defining a new and generous interactive public space.
The larger masonry volume, therefore, sculpts the school’s social and “active” functions. Like subtractions in a more rigid volume, these functions – hall, daycare, gymnasium, stairs – are expressed in the public space and the courtyard, either in transparency or in colour.
On the schoolyard side, transparency and colour are more expressed, offering a personalized character to the institution and its active schoolyard. Aluminium panels in different shades of red and orange, create a link with the red colour of the existing doors and windows, but also with the surrounding context, which contains “plexes” in brick of different shades of clay. This colourful facade makes its presence a principal element in the interior of the lobby but subtly asserts itself on Lajeunesse Street.