Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Centre Culturel de Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in Montreal, Canada by Atelier Big City
June 28th, 2018 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Atelier Big City
The CCNDG is the last project on the Benny Farm, a redeveloped WW2 veterans housing complex in the NDG borough. CCNDG is the last piece placed in a decades-long story of social activism, memory and collaborative design process that consistently rejected expediency for an expanding and inclusive idea of community. The project was the winning scheme for an architectural competition held in 2010. The community required a 21st century ‘third space’ library, one that was more socially and digitally accessible and engaged.
The CCNDG was conceived as a public building with a clear, diagonal porosity on the ground floor that connected the center of the Benny Farm site to the street. This openness reflects both its community position as a public building and responds to its siting at the corner of the block. The L-shaped building reinforces the strong setback lines of the site, drawing the neighbouring buildings together. It combines simple typologies on its opposite axes (basilica and theatre) with subtle overlaps of program to generate an enlarged, fluid and engaging living space at its center. Outdoors, the building frames a landscaped court facing the community gardens at the center of the Benny Farm, with seating under an old maple for community events and performances under the stars. The CCNDG is also about learning and discovery, a joyful and colourful environment into which the community will grow – a communal space where all generations and user groups are brought together in two great public rooms. The continuous and generous circulation permits each of the user groups to migrate and interact easily. Organized in a sectional ‘zig-zag’ (directly to the theatre, across to the children’s library, diagonally up towards the adolescents, then across to the adults) the main program areas are spatially dynamic and fun.
The building is ‘enveloped’ by a segmented brick curtain, recalling the red brick of the Benny Farm while offering generous daylight and views. The library reading areas feel almost outdoors. Abstracting conventional systems of enclosure (brick cladding, shell, finishing ‘skins’ indoors), the design provides reading areas in an expanded metal and wood envelope that controls light and temperature. The deconstructed envelope also reveals an exposed wood shell. Cross laminated timber has an historical connection on the Benny Farm – the existing buildings used an unusual, site constructed 2-ply cross lam for the exterior walls.Culture is the deepest root of both architecture and sustainable design, and this project is extremely well used by the citizens of NDG. In addition to resource efficiencies and innovations, the primary requirements of sustainable design include the support of sharing, of community, of activity with common purpose. Supporting a culture of common endeavour is the only way to guarantee sustainability in the long-term. It is also a necessary pragmatism in a province where energy has a small fraction of the carbon density elsewhere on the continent. Community, comfort, flexibility and economy therefore organize the CCNDG’s sustainability goals as much as resource efficiency. Understanding the limited means of the present, the project proposes a simple additive infrastructure strategy to become deeper green with time, a process that will continually educate and engage the NDG community.
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