ON THE RIVER­FRONT

To bring a for­mer in­dus­trial site along the St. Lawrence back to life, Mon­treal ar­chi­tect Paul Lau­ren­deau crafted an am­phithe­atre that stands out from every an­gle

Azure - - CONTENTS - Text by David Theodore Pho­tog­ra­phy by Adrien Wil­liams

In Trois-rivières, Que­bec, ar­chi­tect Paul Lau­ren­deau builds an am­phithe­atre to re­an­i­mate a river­side site By David Theodore

The best view of the Co­geco Am­phithe­atre in Trois-rivières, Que­bec, is from across the St. Lawrence River. Its im­mense, 80by-90-me­tre, thin-edged roof flies over a con­crete-and-glass stage house, an­chored by only eight thin col­umns. At night it looks as if a glam­orous pre­miere is un­der­way: ar­ti­fi­cial light the­atri­cally rakes the un­der­side of the roof, and the river glis­tens like a mir­ror, dou­bling the build­ing ’s im­age in the wa­ter.

Like many post-in­dus­trial cities, Trois-rivières has put its faith in cul­ture and en­ter­tain­ment to re­vive its wa­ter­front. The am­phithe­atre dom­i­nates a shore­line that only 20 years ago was stud­ded with the cranes and smoke­stacks of a pulp and pa­per mill. The artis­tic pro­gram­ming is a cru­cial part of this plan – this past sum­mer’s lineup fea­tured Cirque du Soleil, Styx, and a bilin­gual Québe­cois ver­sion of Grease – but the main draw is the iconic build­ing. It serves the Tri­flu­vians, as the lo­cals are known, as both a land­mark and a sym­bol of the city’s trans­for­ma­tion.

It is also the most am­bi­tious project yet of Mon­treal ar­chi­tect Paul Lau­ren­deau, who in 2011 won the com­mis­sion through an open and anony­mous com­pe­ti­tion. Ar­chi­tects of­ten de­cry Que­bec’s spas­modic com­pe­ti­tion sys­tem, but when it works, it brings new voices to the fore. At the time Lau­ren­deau only had one pub­lic build­ing to his name, a 491-seat theatre in Dol­beau-mis­tassini, a north­ern town known for its blue­berry fes­ti­val. “Some­times

com­pe­ti­tions pre-se­lect ar­chi­tects on the ba­sis of qual­i­fi­ca­tions,” he notes. “I wouldn’t have qual­i­fied for a project of this size, but the jury chose my de­sign.”

The open-air venue cel­e­brates all things the­atri­cal. “It’s not a copy-paste build­ing,” he says. “There’s a clar­ity and de­tail for every lit­tle nook and cranny, even back­stage.” Vis­ually, the blood­red gal­va­nized steel pan­els on the un­der­side of the roof con­jure up the glitz of vel­vet house cur­tains. Lau­ren­deau also ex­panded the seat­ing’s rack to en­sure greater stage vis­i­bly and im­proved sight­lines. The space ac­com­mo­dates close to 9,000 peo­ple: 3,116 in red chairs; an­other 5,177 on a sloped lawn, and 695 more in an op­tional mosh pit. In the win­ter months, the stage house is closed off with gi­ant steel-and-glass doors and used as a cabaret. “It’s a crafted build­ing,” adds Lau­ren­deau. “We didn’t just choose the cladding and do the foyer, as theatre ar­chi­tects some­times do.”

In ad­di­tion to work­ing with a bevy of struc­tural and acous­tic en­gi­neers, Lau­ren­deau col­lab­o­rated with other strong creative firms. Bureau Prin­ci­pal pro­vided graph­ics and wayfind­ing signs that add a sans-serif forthright­ness to the pal­ette of black paint and grey con­crete. Ar­chi­tect and ur­ban­ist Peter Soland of Ci­vil­iti de­signed the es­planade along the wa­ter’s edge. The new park is es­pe­cially pop­u­lar with the Tri­flu­vians, who use it for bik­ing and jog­ging even if they don’t go to shows. Soland also col­lab­o­rated on the over­size wooden let­ters that spell out “Trois-rivières” on the river­side. In a nod to the re­gion’s forestry in­dus­try, the six-me­tre­high, 20-cen­time­tre-thick let­ters are made of spruce, but, iron­i­cally, they were fab­ri­cated in Aus­tria and shipped by boat to Canada.

Lau­ren­deau says that the build­ing, al­though opened in 2015, is still not quite fin­ished. He con­vinced the city that some tem­po­rary rain screens it in­stalled were too high main­ta­nence, so now he has the com­mis­sion to de­sign per­ma­nent ones. The lo­cals have adopted the grosses let­tres as brand­ing in the spirit of the fa­mous Hol­ly­wood sign. But out­siders are in­ter­ested, too. The site is al­ready a pop­u­lar spot for a tourist selfie shot and as a venue for cor­po­rate events. This in­vest­ment in iconic ar­chi­tec­ture has suc­cess­fully put Trois-rivières in the spot­light. paullau­ren­deau.com 100 Av­enue des Draveurs, Trois­riv­ières, Que­bec

Lo­cated on a site where two rivers meet, the am­phithe­atre has no sin­gle front fa­cade. Eight slen­der steel col­umns, each 26 me­tres high, give the roof its stately, open ap­pear­ance.

↑ To make the gal­va­nized steel roof ap­pear as thin as pos­si­ble, the edges ta­per to a mere 6.4 mil­lime­tres. At its cen­tre, the roof is six me­tres thick. Bold ex­te­rior let­ter­ing by Peter Soland.

→ The theatre is equipped to han­dle live con­certs and more in­ti­mate events. In win­ter, a ther­mal door closes the stage open­ing to cre­ate an in­te­rior space with a ca­pac­ity of 700.

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