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The promises of the new HEC Montréal building



The new HEC Montréal building, located downtown, will welcome its first students next fall. The project, rich in architectural challenges, will succeed after 10 years of work. What are his promises? The Press visited his construction site.

Back to downtown

Located on rue De La Gauchetière Ouest, between Côte du Beaver Hall and rue Sainte-Alexandre, the new building marks the return of HEC Montréal to the city center. The management school, whose first building was inaugurated on Avenue Viger in 1910, had not been established there for more than 50 years. “It was important to go back to our roots,” says Loretta Cianci, director of campus development at HEC Montréal. Above all, the project responds to a lack of space, a consequence of strong growth in student numbers and university activities. Starting in the fall, the building will be able to accommodate more than 11,000 students and 9,000 executives and working professionals who will be able to take courses at the School of Leaders. Some certificates, specialized graduate diplomas and master’s degrees in administration will be offered there, but no bachelor’s degree. “We wanted to come back downtown to provide training to workers and our adult clientele,” says Cianci.

Long process


The new building was built on part of the land adjacent to Saint Patrick’s Basilica, a listed heritage building.

Entrusted to the architectural firm Provencher Roy after a public call for tenders, the project is large: 235.2 million dollars, including 108.5 million subsidized by Quebec, more than 24,100 square meters in area, 27 classrooms, a conference center and an auditorium. Between the start of the project in 2012 and the first sod of the ground in 2019, a series of consultations were carried out with some sixty parties, including the City of Montreal, the provincial government and residents – initially fearful of the project. arrival of the new building. “We are imposing ourselves in a neighborhood that is very residential. The residents were able to express themselves and at the end of the workshop, I think we reassured them of our desire to integrate them [dans le projet] remarks Loretta Cianci. HEC Montréal also had to meet the requirements of the Conseil du patrimoine de Montréal, as the building was built on part of the land adjacent to the Saint-Patrick basilica, a listed heritage building. “It was a long process, but it was necessary to arrive at the best solution,” believes Gerardo Perez, urban designer at Provencher Roy.

Integrate into your environment


From left to right: Anne Rouaud, architect designer at Provencher Roy, Loretta Cianci, director of campus development at HEC Montréal, and Gerardo Perez, urban designer at Provencher Roy

This was the central concern of the architects. How to integrate the (imposing) building into its environment (residential and dense)? First challenge: the Saint-Patrick basilica, its neighbor on the ground. After several models, Anne Rouaud, architect designer at Provencher Roy, and her team opted for a sloping facade that reflects the bell tower, and angles giving views of the basilica. Thus, it is possible to see the church from all sides of the quadrangle. The height of the building was also limited, so as not to exceed the church. “We didn’t want to compete with the surrounding buildings, especially the basilica,” said Rouaud. To avoid weighing down the district, the architects relied on a light, glazed construction and a dynamic design. A large portion of the ground floor was raised from the ground to clear the sidewalk, at the request of residents. “All these folds, these slopes, these inclined planes, it was to create this architectural urban relationship”, says Gerardo Perez.

Added value of face-to-face


Glazed facade of the new HEC Montréal building

To adapt to the pandemic, the plans of the building under construction have been modified. All classrooms have been equipped to allow distance learning. “We managed to integrate the infrastructures and the technological tools just in time,” says Loretta Cianci. With regard to ventilation, HEC Montréal promises air quality that complies with LEED Gold certification. With telework, the university is banking on the added value of the face-to-face experience to attract customers. The corridors, for example, run along the glass facades, interspersed with terraces sometimes overlooking a garden, sometimes the city. “We were really concerned about creating direct contact from the inside to the outside,” explains Gerardo Perez. “You never get bored in this building. There are always new perspectives to discover,” concludes Anne Rouaud.

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