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    Picture: Stéphane Brügger

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Architect relaunches planetarium design

Jez Abbott
04 Jan 2019

A former planetarium has been transformed into a high-tech hub of gleaming curves.

The former Dow Planetarium in Montreal is now home to one of the largest technology company accelerators in Canada, ÉTS Centech.

Closed since 2011 after 45 years of existence and transferred to the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) by the City of Montreal, the conversion by Menkès Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux Architectes rehabilitated what has become an icon in the heart of the Quartier de l’Innovation.

The main challenge was to bring light into the heart of a building designed to be both obscure and opaque, but preserve the memory and the nature of the building. Concepts evolved around revolutionabout an axis and the circular shape imposed by the intrinsic nature of the building.

Designers took creative cues from perpetual movements of the universe and the curious complexity of ancient instruments such as the astrolabe. The architects transformed the former planetarium into a dynamic place that becomes a source of inventiveness in 21st century technology.

Walls juxtapose vertical slats with concentric circles to convey an aura of mechanical rotation and spinning. The center of the building is an open circular space accessible on all sides that controls the spatial organization of the building. The mechanics of the rest of the building are articulated around this central space.

A concentric circulation path leading to the café echoes the principle of watchmaking and the cogwheel. Special technical features include curved glass walls, curved laminated timber, polished concrete slabwork and electromechanical components below the slab to free up existing caisson ceilings and allow full-height glass. Acoustic foam and panels were integrated into the structure.

Menkès Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux Architectes is one of the largest architectural and design firms in Canada. Realizing projects in the institutional, corporate, cultural and residential fields, the firm is a reference in design, construction and project management and has a team of more than 115 professionals.

Partner in charge was architect Anik Shooner, lead designer was Jean-Pierre LeTourneux, and project manager was Julie Morin. The team included Mehand Aziz, Frédérick Dumas, Marie-Eve Éthier Chiasson, Sylvain Gagné, Pierre Gervais, Marc-Antoine Grondin, Mario Isa, Claude Labbé, Louis Laperrière, Gaspard Marier, Anne-Marie Nguyen, Joanne Parent, Charles Laurence Proulx, Gaétan Roy, and Cuong Tran.

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