New Radiant and Active Design for Christ-Roi Elementary School Neatly Blends in with the Neighborhood

In June 2020, Smith Vigeant Architects Inc. and BGLA in consortium completed the expansion of the Christ-Roi Elementary School, located in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville Borough, Montreal. The expansion added three new floors, which include: nine classrooms, a kindergarten, a daycare service, and a gymnasium.

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Photo credit: Stéphane Brügger

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 color are more expressed, offering a personalized character to the institution, respecting its initial pavilion. 

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Photo credit: Stéphane Brügger

The two buildings are built around a vast central staircase covered in natural light and the radiance of colors. 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 neighborhood, the daycare service, and the schoolyard.

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Photo credit: Stéphane Brügger

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.

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Photo credit: Stéphane Brügger

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 neighborhood. 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 neighborhood and in the courtyard.

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Photo credit: Stéphane Brügger

Connection and centrality

It is through the central hall that the new and old connect. Located in the center of the newly enlarged school, the hall acts as a hub for traffic and links between floors, between the neighborhood and the schoolyard.

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Photo credit: Stéphane Brügger

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.

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Photo credit: Stéphane Brügger

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 color.

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Photo credit: Stéphane Brügger

On the schoolyard side, transparency and color are more expressed, offering a personalized character to the institution and its active schoolyard. Aluminum panels in different shades of red and orange, create a link with the red color of the existing doors and windows, but also with the surrounding context, which contains "plexes" in brick of different shades of clay. This colorful facade makes its presence a principal element in the interior of the lobby but subtly asserts itself on Lajeunesse Street.

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Photo credit: Stéphane Brügger

About BGLA

BGLA has been specializing for 45 years in the fields of architecture, heritage, and urban design, and now has three business offices in Montreal, Quebec City, and Sept-Îles, with a large team of more than 75 employees. BGLA has diversified experience on projects of all sizes, mainly in the institutional (teaching and health), cultural and community fields. BGLA's architectural approach is sensitive to the protection of the built environment and its historical and social context. Recognized for its interventions that are respectful to both the buildings and their constructive processes, BGLA is concerned with the valorization of the natural and cultural heritage of each place. The firm also favors the use of local materials like wood occupying a predominant place in most of its achievements, both in terms of structure and finishes.

About Smith Vigeant architectes Inc.

Established in Quebec since 1992, Smith Vigeant Architects Inc.'s north star is an architectural practice that broadens up the traditional limits of intervention. Its innovative and sustainable design approach allows the firm to develop strong and original concepts which solve the challenges of each project. SVA's multidisciplinary expertise consisting of architects, LEED-certified professionals, designers, and technologists, extends to a wide range of interventions covering the residential, institutional, and corporate sectors, urban design, northern territories, and national parks. Pioneers of sustainable architecture in Quebec, the firm is developing its expertise in wood construction and actively exports its services abroad.


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