Chevalier Morales and DMA Architectes - Pierrefonds Public Library: a combination of an idealized park and a shopping mall
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Pierrefonds Public Library: a combination of an idealized park and a shopping mall

Chevalier Morales and DMA Architectes

Culture  /  Completed
Chevalier Morales and DMA Architectes
Creating an Information Exchange Building //

“The overall planning strategy of this innovative and highly technological library was inspired by the pragmatic efficiency of shopping centers, train stations, and airports, all while avoiding their flaws.” //

While looking through old Pierrefonds masterplans, we came across a graphic image depicting the main planning criteria for green spaces in the district. The drawing showed an idealized park divided into various areas based on age groups and types of activities, revealing striking similarities with library planning. An in-depth study of this document became one of the foundations for the project; using its premises of organizing green spaces, an interior garden was positioned in the project. Thought as an extraction process, the garden allows natural light as well as part of the natural surroundings to reach the heart of the existing building. The garden also functions as a spatial reference point for users and employees of the library. //

Another relevant subject that was deeply investigated was the shopping mall, a typology typical of suburban environments and surprisingly possessing essential spatial components of what is called a ‘third space’. Shopping malls are generic buildings that abide by functional and economic requirements, however what is interesting and relevant is the organization of their circulation. Generally, they will have many focal points and an elaborate circulation network which compels shoppers to extend their stroll unintentionally. The library was planned in this way too; the layout encourages free circulation and flexibility as a multitude of trajectories are offered. Spatial elements such as wings, central meeting spaces, suspended floating stairways, floor openings with visual connections, skylights and the creation of civic spaces were also directly inspired by the shopping mall typology. Yet, conversely to the shopping mall’s perimeter, which is always filled with parking lots and opaque walls, the Pierrefonds Public Library’s perimeter is replaced with green spaces and transparency. The project also features several small skylights, providing zenithal lighting to the reading spaces. One important technical challenge of the project was the delicate balance between the multitude of glazing elements and the desire to create a soft and enjoyable natural interior lighting condition. //

Formally, the project responds to the site’s main elements. Instead of being purely functional and economic, the building’s shape is drawn to manifest its urban presence on Pierrefonds Boulevard, to bring near the Boisé du Millénaire (a wooded park), and to retreat and reveal existing greenery islands on the site. The project is intentionally defined as the combination of an idealized park and a shopping mall, inspired by the spatial organization of both. //

As the winning proposal of an architectural competition, the project presents for the first time a library that really embodies an ecosystemic vision where the programs and the relations between them are developed with the same level of attention. The idea to base the design on a new understanding of two classic suburban public typologies was in and of itself innovative, and ultimately allows the library to be thought of as a truly public space. The organization of the collections equally constitutes an important innovation in the domain of local public libraries as the collections are organized as thematic poles. The integration of a fablab, a multimedia lab, and a central space for gatherings, which includes a coffee shop, illustrates the project’s objective to create a civic space that offers many services for all publics. //

The Pierrefonds Public Library is a 4550 square meter building spanning two floors. The project’s forms and materials are simple and intend to disappear to highlight the presence of its landscape, users, and books. White is dominant both inside and out and offers a neutral canvas from which the landscape’s changing colors, the roaming visitors, and the many documents contrast and stand out. The white surfaces – walls, ceilings, and shelving – also reflect and multiply the natural light coming in through the vast glass curtain walls, the roof terrace, the glass roof, and the multiple skylights, allowing the library to stay bright even during cloudy weather. On the upper level, the light-yellow epoxy-glazed concrete floor, oak bleachers, and colorful and comfortable furniture bring warmth to the predominantly white spaces. //

A glazed curtain-wall system punctuated with white aluminum sections wraps the perimeter of the building. Some glass panels are screen-printed (jetprint) to create a smooth transition between transparency and opacity. The envelope is also textured inside; perforated aluminum panels flank the floor and ceiling, which also act as a ventilation distribution system. //

Most of the upper floor slab is cantilevered along the perimeter of the building; the team was faced with a structural challenge to preserve the impression of lightness, which they achieved by making the floor slab appear as thin as possible. The steel structure was carefully crafted in collaboration with structural engineers, especially the glass roof over the bleachers. //

Finally, the building spreads around the old borough’s library. Developing the junctions between the new building envelope and the existing facade was another major technical and esthetical challenge. Some salvaged bricks were used to create inside partitions recalling the perimeter of the previous building. Integrating the memory of the old building into the current project was fundamental. //

The Pierrefonds Public Library aims for a Gold LEED Certification. Throughout the project’s process, the architects prioritized three main themes: indoor environmental quality, reuse of an existing building and responding to the identity of the community.


 City of Montreal
 4550 mq
 Stephan Chevalier and Sergio Morales; François Lemoine
 Alexandre Massé, Julie Rondeau, Gabriel Lanthier, Céline Leclerc, Christian Aubin, Ève Beaumont-Cousineau, Catherine St-Marseille, Simon Barrette, Geneviève Riopel
 Bouthillette Parizeau, SDK, Équipe Laurence, Version Paysage
 Chevalier Morales


Founded in 2005 by Stephan Chevalier and Sergio Morales, the firm strives to create contemporary architecture that is both sensitive and responsible. They continually re-examine their understanding of the larger context, to give rise to an architecture that is rooted in its own cultural territory. Chevalier Morales is recognized for the exceptional quality of their projects; they have been selected as finalists in more than fifteen architectural competitions and have won several institutional and cultural mandates such as the Saul-Bellow Public Library (Montreal, 2015), the Maison de la littérature (Quebec, 2016), the Drummondville Public Library (2018), the Pierrefonds Public Library (Montreal, 2019) and more recently the Agora des Arts in Rouyn-Noranda. In recent years, the work of Chevalier Morales has been recognized through numerous prizes and distinctions. The Montreal-based firm is now well established and counts more than 30 architects and collaborators.

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