Dose of Architecture – McGill New Music Building

A prominent new piece of architecture is the New Music Building on the McGill campus by a joint venture of Menkes Shooner Dagenais LeTourneau and Saucier + Perrotte. The $70 million building is located at the northwest corner of Sherbrooke and Alymer.

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Photo courtesy of La Scene Musicale.

The building includes the 200 seat Tanna Schulich Recital hall and the three floor Marvin Duchow Music Library. One of the special components of the building is the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology or CIRMMT (pronounced Kermit). CIRMMT includes the ‘worlds finest’ scoring stage designed by Artec, a world-leading acoustical firm, that is large enough to accomodate a full orchestra. The scoring stage is an accoustically totally isolated black box. A concrete box within a concrete box eliminating outside noise. This isolation meets the needs of todays highly sensitive microphones and major movie scores will likely be recorded there.

The architect, Gille Saucier, at Saucier + Perrotte responsible for the design of the project had the following quotes about the building. “It’s as if the McGill campus acted like a geological plate that shifted the city grid, which the building’s design accentuates,” he says, noting the structure’s lower floors are composed of concrete or stone and upper floors framed by glass.”

From an article in La Scene Musicale: “The importance of art in university life is made wonderfully clear as you approach from the east ? it’s the first building you see, and it imposes itself proudly against Sherbrooke Street, so it works like a keystone for the whole campus structure. In terms of urban planning, we see it as a gateway from one world to another, with music leading the way.” His intention was to “suggest the influence of music, with the building formed along a rectilinear plan for both the interior and the facade, but a more lyrical sense of movement in the staircase that slopes through the interior and finishes with a curl at the library. Just as a melodic phrase advances through the regular tempo of a bar, we can see it as a lyrical flourish inside a fairly linear system.” “…you can tell right away if the students react badly to a space ? there’s no regular pattern or harmony. All those windowless bunkers from the ’70s were a mistake, really. There’s a way to build architecture that is efficient but also interesting and stimulating for students.”

Also from the article in La Scene Musicale: A more idyllic project might have included leafy surroundings on the slopes of Mount Royal, but the urban genius of the layout is immediately clear once you emerge (escape?) from the bustling clamour of the street into this oasis of calm where music is celebrated as the greatest focus of human activity. “The role of the audience is just as crucial to that celebration,” Saucier believes. “Look at the great staircase Garnier designed for the Paris Opera: it allows the spectators to be seen, and to see each other. It helps turn an event into a community. If architecture didn’t have this role to play, we would just listen to music at home ? with our iPods ? and forget about encountering each other in a public space through art.”

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