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Friday 04 Mar 2011

New school in Quebec centres around an agora to unite its functions

The Collège Lionel-Groulx, built in 1881 in the city of Ste-Thérèse, has become the major educational institution for pre-university studies, north of Montreal, Quebec. Originally built as a simple, linear building parallel to the street, the College has since grown in a complex, tree-like pattern, with additional wings extending away from the original building, thereby creating a series of unused internal service courtyards and contributing to the current maze-like internal circulation system.

The construction of the Agora was meant to resolve two problems: by covering the main open courtyard, the project creates a large, multi-functional room that can be used by the student community for organising concerts, conferences or celebrations for more than 50% of the student body; it can be isolated from its surrounding spaces and act independently of the rest of the college. Secondly, centrally located on the campus, the new space becomes a crossroad, allowing connections, both transversally and diagonally between the various educational wings, creating a new circulation and activity hub for the school.

Since the Agora's covering can be viewed from the upper floors of the surrounding buildings, the project was conceived as a sloped green roof façade, formed and shaped so as not to obstruct natural light from penetrating into the existing adjacent wings. The central space is two storeys in height, surrounded by a clerestory, admitting light inwards and views outwards. The Agora extends to the north with a corridor parallel to the original building, regrouping the student services offices, serving as a barrier-free connection to the sport center and encloses a redirected emergency exit that creates a sculptural volume through the corridor and leads directly to the exterior. The Agora is a clear solution in plan, filling the void between the different educational functions, and destined to become a spectacular new addition to student life.

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