published in sb 2/2017
Initially a mining center, then a dumping site and now destined to become one of Montreal’s biggest parks. Inside the St-Michel Environmental Complex (SMEC), the Montreal Soccer Stadium designed by Saucier+Perrotte architects retains traces of the site’s “artificial” topography – vestiges representative of its noteworthy history. The new building adds a mineral stratum onto the topos – a layer reminiscent of the geological nature of the site and symbolizing its new uses: sports, recreation and physical activity.
On the site of the former Miron quarry and a future ecological park, the new soccer center emerges from the park’s artificial topography as a layer of mineral stratum recalling the geological nature of the site. The mineral stratum is articulated by a continuous roof which cantilevers over the entry plaza and folds down over the interior soccer field. It extends to the ground to become the spectator seating for the outdoor field.
To ensure the unity of the soccer center over different programs and construction phases, the stratum appears as a single gesture with laminated wood structure supporting the roof. The roof’s crossing beams form a seemingly arbitrary lattice suspended over the entire site.
A large crystal box which contains the main lobby emerges from the terrain’s southeast end, signaling the entrance of the soccer center.
A subsequent series of crystals emerge from the augmented landscape to provide daylight and views for the administrative and public spaces behind.
Programmatic elements and circulation
Despite the magnitude of the program, the series of crystals and preservation of existing trees succeed in retaining a human scale and the natural context for the adjacent residents. The programmatic elements and circulation are organized efficiently by taking advantage of the linearity of the site, in conjunction with program usage associating with players, spectators and park visitors.
The center includes one full-size interior soccer field that can be subdivided into mini-soccer fields; locker rooms and a fitness and physiotherapy room for the players; an event space, restaurant area as well as a family rest area to accommodate its community and park visitors; and offices for regional soccer associations.
Presence of the park along a main urban artery
Along Papineau Avenue, the center integrates fully with the site’s existing features. The intervention is first and foremost a “gesture” within the landscape. The presence of the existing berm has been preserved, not to hide the building from the city, but to mark the vital presence of the SMEC and facilitate access to the park. In addition, importance has been given to preserving the mature trees planted along the bermed landscape. Through its design, the project takes on a larger role than a sports facility; it becomes a welcome center for the SMEC Park.
An architectural form navigating the scale of the site
Like a mineral element rising from the quarry’s walls, the horizontal roof stratum acts as a cantilever to signal the plaza and main entrance at the southwest portion of the site. The roof’s behavior reacts to the requirements of the program: extending eastward to house the interior soccer field, and then lowering to become a frame of seating for the outdoor soccer field and a bench area for players and coaches. As the roof thickens, it allows for a reduction in the amount of glazing along the east end of the building to control direct sunlight. The thickened volume, in turn, provides space for mechanical and various sustainable systems.
Unique structural expression
In order to ensure the formal unity of the project, the structure is conveyed as a single formal gesture in cross-laminated timber. The structural grid/cells form a layered mesh, which appears to be random to visitors, but which in reality becomes denser over zones where added structural strength is needed. This cellular grid composes the cantilevered roof over the entrance plaza, the roof structure over the indoor field, and the surfaces of the outdoor bleachers.
The design team has worked closely with the engineers to develop this vision of a unifying structural concept. This integrated design process has led to the formulation of a structural grid that takes into account sustainability criteria and optimizes the dimensioning of the structure’s members according to the loads and spans. The wood structure is flexible and allows the integration of mechanical systems because of the varying heights of its layered chord members – sometimes members are at full height, and at other instances they allow for a gap above to permit the passage of ventilation systems. Lighting fixtures are placed under the mesh’s beams highlight the seemingly random pattern.
The interior programs develop in a linear fashion under the green roof and occasionally reveal themselves as the aforementioned crystals to recall the geological nature of the site. Users circulate using paths on two levels, which separate public and private spaces. Yet, a link is preserved at key moments between the two levels. The ground floor gives direct access to the dressing rooms and the playing field. From the second level, accessible via the entrance lobby, visitors can access the indoor field bleachers, public spaces and the administrative area, which are largely open toward the exterior. From this second floor, visitors can overlook the field on one side and have a grand view down into the old Miron quarry and the future SMEC Park on the other.
Support spaces for both the players and building maintenance are located on the ground floor. On this level, the relationship between the players’ dressing rooms and the playing surface is prioritized: a central corridor is used to group the dressing rooms and control access to the field.
The playing field is separated from the locker room corridor by Banker Wire woven wire mesh remaining immune to wear and tear in the high-traffic area. Its semi-transparent qualities allow natural daylight into the heavily-used corridor. The mesh needs to be as unobtrusive as possible visually, yet have the strength to maintain its integrity between the play area and spectators. Banker Wire construct their pre-crimped woven wire mesh of individual wires that are crimped prior to being woven together on a loom. Pre-crimping the wires provides a much higher degree of control during the weaving process.
Storage for equipment has been integrated so that it is easily accessible from both the interior spaces and the exterior.