Montreal Planetarium

Star-gazing building demonstrates environmentally-responsive architecture on Earth

Located within Montreal’s iconic Olympic Park  complex, this project was the winning entry in a two-stage international competition. The project brief called for an intervention that would humanize the rather bleak site, which included an existing underground parking structure adjacent to the Olympic stadium. Together with the nearby  Botanical Gardens, Insectarium and Biodome, the Planetarium is part of Montreal’s ‘Space for Life’,  the largest concentration of natural science museums in Canada.

By Marc Chenouda, M. Arch.

The planetarium is an educational, cultural and scientific museum for astronomy. The architectural response was guided by a desire to connect the building to nature, the place from which the vastness and beauty of the night sky can be experienced most profoundly. Another goal was to make this experience accessible to all, not simply to patrons of the Planetarium itself.

With sustainability a central concern, the decision was made to retain the parking garage and utilize it for part of the building program. This strategy reduced both heat loss and unwanted solar heat gain while offering a wonderful opportunity to explore access to natural light by sculpting the space and creating mood and ambiance.

The concrete structure is draped with an undulating, accessible green roof that connects the various levels of the site and creates an attractive amenity where people can linger amid trees, shrubs and public art. Two large conical skylights project through the vegetated roof, symbolizing the connection between nature and sky, and bringing natural light deep into the building.
These skylights, together with a portion of the upper floor, are new constructions built on top of the existing structure. No additional foundations were necessary.

The ground floor of the building houses the public spaces, including the main entrance, two star theatres, exhibition spaces and a cafe. The second floor houses the administrative offices, while the lower level serves as the link with the adjacent Biodome, and includes related activity areas, change rooms and a dining room.

  • Project performances
    – Energy intensity [building and process energy] = 702 MJ/m2/year
    – Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under ASHRAE 90.1 1999 = 47%
    – Potable water consumption from municipal sources = 2,187 L/occupant/year
    – Potable water consumption reduction relative to LEED reference building = 70.6%
    – Reclaimed and recycled material by value = 20%
    – Regional materials [800km radius] by value = 20%
    – Approximately 85% of the existing parking structure was retained
  • Project credits
    Architect  Cardin Ramirez Julien + Ædifica
  • Mechanical and electrical engineering  Dupras Ledoux Inc.
    Leed Consultants  EXP
    Consultants  Patenaude-Trempe Inc. Experts Consultants
    Acoustic  Dessau [Acoustique]
    Universal accessibility Société Logique
    Landscape Architect  Fauteux et associes architectes paysagistes
    Code Consultant  Sylvie Destroimaisons
    Technologic integration  Go Multimedia
    Photos  Stephane Brugger, Espace pour la vie [Diane Pinard], Vincent Audy, David Giral
  • Materials
    Lower level of structure uses the existing parking structure, upper level structure uses steel framing clad with aluminum panels, vegetated roofs, reflective membranes on roofs of cones; raised floor system for displacement ventilation. The Dual Core™ ventilation system by Tempeff North America employs two energy cores which deliver extremely high, frost-resistant energy recovery.

Marc Chenouda, M. Arch. is with Cardin Ramirez Julien Architects in Montreal.

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