June 14, 2010 /

Québec, Canada

Image by Luxigon courtesy OMA

OMA's first project in Canada aims to integrate the building with the surrounding park and initiate new links with the city.

The expansion, linked underground with the museum's three existing buildings, is located on Quebec's main promenade, Grande-Allée, adjacent to St. Dominique Church.

"The new building, the museum's fourth building in an increasingly complicated site, interconnected yet disparate, is a subtly ambitious, even stealthy, addition to the city rather than an iconic imposition, one that creates new links between the park and the city, and new coherence to the MNBAQ.

Image by Luxigon courtesy OMA

Our design aims to weave together the city, the park and the museum; it is simultaneously an extension of all three.

/Rem Koolhaas

The intricate and sensitive context of the new building generated the central questions underpinning the design: How to extend Parc des Champs-de-Bataille while inviting the city in? How to respect and preserve St-Dominique church while creating a persuasive presence on Grande-allée? How to clarify the museum's organization while simultaneously adding to its scale?

Image courtesy OMA

Our solution was to stack the required new galleries in three volumes of decreasing size - housing contemporary exhibitions, the permanent contemporary collection and design / Inuit exhibits - to create a cascade ascending from the park towards the city.

Image courtesy OMA

While they step down in section, the gallery boxes step out in plan, framing the existing courtyard of the church cloister and orienting the building towards the park. The park spills into the museum, through skylights and carefully curated windows, and the museum into the park, though the extension of exhibitions to the terraces.

Image courtesy OMA

The stacking creates a 14 meter high Grand Hall, sheltered under a dramatic cantilever. The Grand Hall serves as an interface to the Grande-allée, an urban plaza for the museum's public functions, and a series of gateways into the galleries, courtyard and auditorium.

Image courtesy OMA

The new building offers many different trajectories and experiences. Complementing the quiet reflection of the gallery spaces, a chain of programs, foyers, lounges, shops, bridges, gardens, along the museum's edge offers a hybrid of activities, art and public promenades.

Image by Luxigon courtesy OMA

Along the way, orchestrated views outside reconnect the visitor with the park, the city, and the rest of the museum. Within the boxes, mezzanines and overlooks link the temporary and permanent exhibition spaces. On top of each of the gallery boxes, roof terraces provide space for outdoor displays and activities. Surrounding the skylights are alternating bands of wood decking and paving for public activities and exhibitions.

Image courtesy OMA

The new building connects with the Pavilion Charles-Baillairge (1867), a former prison, by a tunnel rising 8.2m over its 55m length. While at first the sheer length of this tunnel and the change in elevation might appear to be awkward obstacles, they in fact create a surprising mixture of gallery spaces that lead the visitor, as if by chance, to the rest of the museum complex.

/Rem Koolhaas OMA

Facts about MNBAQ

Total area:

12,000 m2
Estimated completion: 2013


Partners in charge:
Shohei Shigematsu & Rem Koolhaas

Associate in charge:
Jason Long

Project team:
Rami Abou-Khalil
Mathieu Lemieux Blanchard
Tsuyoshi Nakamoto
Richard Sharam
Luke Willis
Christy Cheng
Patrick Hobgood
Sandy Yum

Associate architect:
Provencher Roy + Associés Hélène Gauthier Roy
Michel Roy
Claude Bourbeau
Engineers: Buro Happold Consulting
Gabe Guilliams
Gijs Libourel
Mark Malekshahi
Ana Serra


Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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