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How do you design a space to seamlessly transition from moody wine bar to night club at a moment’s notice? According to Blanchette Architectes, the answer is both surprising and obvious: light. For Montreal’s Minéral, nestled along the bustling rue Atateken, the local studio fitted the new bar with a number of luminous elements that take inspiration from the work of artist James Turrell.

“It’s a place for experiences,” says co-owner Mathieu Ménard who, along with Steve Grenier, launched the outpost in late June, “where light transforms the space and becomes a material.”

Drawing on Ménard’s background as a cabinetmaker, the interior leverages a number of striking millwork pieces to connect the shifting program. A sinuous bar wrapped in deep blue lacquered metal with a stained wood top anchors the space — flanked on either end by intimate seating areas. Above, a custom fixture (inspired by traditional Japanese joinery) comprised of interlocking wooden segments not only adds another focal point, but radiates a soft glow in alternating hues to “change radically from [the] late-afternoon opening to [the] late-night peak,” says studio co-founder Patrick Blanchette.

Replete with leather seats, upholstered banquettes and slim wooden ledges and tables, the surrounding lounge spaces (also trimmed in deep blue to match the rippling bar) offer the perfect place to perch.

“The idea was to take control of the lighting,” explains the designer. “The [existing] space was particularly dark and poorly lit. We had to work with luminous walls and facing mirrors to let the space breathe.”

Additional lighting features, such as a backlit wall, radiate a range of neon hues to activate the dance floor, tucked near the front of the bar beside a curving DJ booth that’s visible from the street. “As they emanate from the architecture,” Blanchette adds, “light and colours become raw materials that fill the space.”

Fittingly, even the bathrooms are outfitted with unique fluorescent elements. While keeping the entire space jet black (ceiling, tiles and even the urinals), Blanchette installed a single, striking luminous wall to highlight the slim vanity (also boasting sleek ceiling-mounted faucets).

Behind a screen of polycarbonate panels, a forest of tropical fauna animates the spartan lavatory to “create a dreamy, mysterious landscape.” Integrated lighting establishes a shadow-box effect, glowing in a range of technicolour tones that match the vibe of the dance floor beyond. All this, while also adding depth to the relatively tight space.

For Minéral, Blanchette has generated a unique, transportive world with his deft handling of quotidian and elemental aspects of interiors, celebrating their transformative qualities in the process. Or, as Ménard concludes: “Minéral appeals to all the senses.”

In Montreal, Minéral Illuminates the City’s Nightlife

Local studio Blanchette Architectes embraces light to help a new bar transform from atmospheric dining room to dance club.

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