House of Literature

  • area / size 20,666 sqft
  • Completed 2017
  • Location Quebec City, Canada,
  • Chevalier Morales Architectes designed the landmark building of the House of Literature in Québec City, Canada.

    The Maison de la littérature (House of Literature) is located in the historic neighborhood of Old Québec, a site part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List. In this particularly dense urban setting, Chevalier Morales designed a contemporary annex, a simple and refined volume, to the Wesley Temple, a neo-Gothic heritage church. Since opening, the Maison de la littérature has become a vibrant home to Québec literature and a popular destination in Old Québec.

    Stemming from an architecture competition, the winning project by Chevalier Morales proposed an unforeseen solution, a response exceeding the initial commission’s expectations. The architects chose to move part of the program into a new annex outside the church space to provide a more transparent and universal entrance.

    This strategy also helped declutter Wesley Temple, allowing the architects to preserve and restore the original spatiality of the overall structure. Along with the library spaces, the Maison de la littérature’s unique and innovative program also includes a concert/lecture hall, a café, a temporary exhibition space, a permanent exhibition, a resident writer’s apartment, creation studios, a projection room, a classroom as well as a multimedia studio.

    An addition with strangely familiar shape
    The partly transparent and strangely familiar shape of this new annex gives an open, contemporary feel to the Institut Canadien de Québec, the main entrance of which is now accessed naturally from the bottom of the sloping Chaussée des Écossais where it intersects with Rue St-Stanislas.

    The outer shell of the façade is made of glass panels with an underlayer of perforated brass sheets, which compose an intriguing bas-relief. Furthermore, the glass annex reflects its surroundings, integrating itself carefully, without mimicry, into the historic urban context of Old Québec.

    This extension, which in its dialectic relationship with the original temple brings the institution fully into the 21st century with its e-books and Twitter poems, houses the main creative spaces in the upper levels. All the necessary mechanical spaces are also found in the basement of the new addition. The idea of putting the creative spaces outside the temple while maintaining a close connection to it seemed symbolically appropriate.

    The multiple paths of freedom
    The institution’s interior layout provides greater access via the main door of the temple as well as the parking lot that also leads into the annex. These various access options all converge on the large circular opening in the library’s floor and the hanging contemporary light fixture at the heart of the building, vertically connecting the café, two exhibition areas, and the library collections.

    Through the original solution of the annex, it was possible to restore the Salle de l’Institut, a cultural and intellectual hotspot in Québec City for the second half of the 20th century. With its circular shape and multiple levels, the new concert and lecture hall can be isolated through concentric and sliding acoustic panels integrated to the ceiling. The space is technically equipped to host conferences, plays, intimate concerts, and public presentations.

    A dialogue between past and present
    The insertion approach used for the new annex is aimed primarily at showcasing, complementing and preserving the heritage value of the existing building. The extension emerges as a strong symbol of the redeveloped heritage space and avoids altering the architectural composition of the existing structure.

    ArchitectChevalier Morales Architectes
    Photography: courtesy of Chevalier Morales Architectes