Designed by Saucier Perotte, the Anne-Marie Edward Science Building at Montreal’s John Abbott College sits comfortably alongside its early 20th century neighbours arranged around a central open space looking out towards lake St. Louis. Sited to preserve the original radial campus layout, the new building folds slightly on itself to create a new public space and set up relationships with both interiors and the wider outdoor context.
Like the ginkgo tree at the centre of the campus, the pivotal structure of the new building is its spacious atrium, a skeleton space through which the exterior permeates the whole facility.
As well as an architectural fulcrum, the atrium and its staircase also serve as socialization spaces, points of contact between the diverse scientific communities inhabiting the building. The physical and visual interconnection made possible between the various departments reinforces interaction but at the same time strengthens individual identities.
The orange colour of the staircase and community spaces references the hues of the new building’s brickwork neighbours, a physical and figurative link with the other scientific activities pursued on the rest of the campus.
The rich warm colour of the staircase can be seen through the glazed reflective steel-framed curtain walls that also mirror the surrounding college pavilions. Virtually uninterrupted reflections dematerialize the new building, helping it to slip seamlessly into context.
Inside, each floor is occupied by a single department with its own laboratories, classrooms and offices. Each department function has been allocated some space on the outer edge of the building, so giving people on the outside a clear idea of the different activities going on inside. For example, offices are represented by a series of small square lights; laboratories have elongated windows for full daylight; and large glazed expanses give views of the mounting staircase.
The Science Building embodies the tensions and flows between exterior and interior, the mix of contemplation and socialization, the quiet concentration that reigns in the various departments and the convivial informal exchange of the community staircase. This amalgam is summed up by a ground floor atrium transformed by the encroaching landscape and interior spaces that reveal what goes on inside to the outside world through vibrant dynamic reflective elevations.