In the small Quebec forestry town of Mont-Laurier, a new performing arts theatre by Les Architectes FABG – a dynamic multi-volume building in wood, steel and glass set between a school and a church – makes a strong statement. Yet its beginnings were humble: A non-profit group from the town, which is located about 180 kilometres north of Ottawa in the Laurentian mountains and is home to 13,500, put out a call for a competition. It sought a multipurpose hall able to accommodate performing arts events as well as banquets, corporate events, school presentations, even trade shows.
The Montreal firm’s winning design for L’Espace Théâtre does just that with flexible spaces able to be reconfigured easily. But its most striking aspect is its form and materiality. The predominant use of steel and wood pay homage to the area’s industrial history with a structural grid of robust wood beams supporting the roof and extending out to create a welcoming canopy. The warm wood-coffered ceiling of the canopy sets the tone for the interior, where a unique multi-functional space has created a new cultural hub.
The hall’s capacity can swell from 270 seats to 700. FABG divided the interior into three sections. A platform area near the stage has seating sections that glide on rails, while the seats in the centre section disappear for more floor area thanks to telescopic seats that fully retract. At the back is a mezzanine of 184 seats with a removable guardrail. The platform section is outfitted with synchronized lifts by Gala Systems, the type used in large theatre settings such as Barcelona’s Teatro Lliure and Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. In both its outward appearance and its versatile interior, L’Espace Théâtre is transformative.