Lemay and Atelier 21’s glass encapsulation—a North American first—of the Grand Théâtre de Québec protects and preserves two of its most prominent original features: The Brutalist architecture of Victor Prus and an integrated mural by artist Jordi Bonet, which together form a cherished cultural icon embodying Quebec’s Quiet Revolution with modernist architecture and monumental, intertwined sculpted work.
Before work began, moisture had caused the concrete panels’ steel anchors to disintegrate, leading to a crumbling exterior that required meticulous interventions. The glasswork of this rescue operation required delicate, custom-designed construction systems: As weather conditions posed major challenges as the new envelope’s installation was only possible under specific climatic conditions, the glass had to be attached to a steel structure, and the steel could not be exposed to any significant temperature variation from the moment of its adjustment to the installation of the glass.
The result—composed of some 900 glass panels weighing a half a tonne each—shields the theatre from the elements by creating a secondary, tempered envelope that houses an energy-efficient and economical low-flow heat recovery and thermal mass system, allowing for the temperature and humidity maintenance necessary to preserve the building and the musical instruments inside.
Its new transparent structural envelope now acts as an extension of the original building it protects, using the same finely tuned structural logic and composition. It amplifies the building’s original morphology, where it revolves at corners, lifts at the base and fades while leaving the building intact and perfectly visible. Appearing solid or immaterial depending on the light, the building’s striking Brutalist lines and artistry come together with its subtle, functional, and sustainable solution protects the past 50 years of this central piece of Quebec City’s modern heritage while ensuring its continued performances for 50 more.
Design teamGabriel Tessier, Amélie Turgeon, Sarah Perron-Desrochers, Olivier Boilard, Paul Déry, Jean-François Doyon, André Dagenais, Mathieu Turgeon, Antoine Carrier, Jacques Berrigan, Marc Leblond, Élie Carrier, Pierre-Louis Chamberland, Nathalie Rocheford