Most gas stations aren't considered architecturally worthy enough to save - let alone preserve historically and renovate. However, Mies van der Rohe's gas station on Nun's Island outside of Montreal is a definite exception, and the modernist glass and steel structure recently underwent a conversion into a youth and senior activity center. The project was carried out by Montreal firm FABG, who refurbished the original structure and took inspiration from Mies' vision to create a more useful and energy-efficient building.
Mies van der Rohe’s gas station on Nun’s Island outside of Montreal was part of a grand vision for a much larger development. Originally built in 1966, the gas station was designed to be a prototypical gas station and included space for car service, sales and gas pumping. Over the years the station changed hands and was modified and even became a car wash at one point until it ceased commercial operation in 2008 and the city of Montreal listed it as a heritage building in 2009. At this point, the city decided to make it an activity center for youths and seniors and FABG was tasked with the renovation and conversion.
FABG’s conversion is not a historical restoration alone though and they did not recreate everything that Mies had intended for the project. The gas station conversion was completed in the spirit of the original plans, but provides functional space for the youth and seniors of the community. To renovate the project, FABG first repaired the building envelope, repainted the brick work and the structure itself. Then they had to develop new strategies for the mechanical and electrical equipment that would not take away from the structure. To minimize mechanical equipment in the building and on the roof, they installed geothermal wells in the parking lot. This places a significant amount of the necessary equipment underground and out of sight, but also provides a much more energy efficient climate control. Other pipes and ducts are disguised as gas pumping equipment.
Then the building was adapted to be used as the youth and senior center. One side, which is painted black is used by the teenagers and provides them with a space to meet, plan activities, do homework or hang out. The other side is painted white and is a large multi-purpose room for the seniors to play bridge, make meals and more. Energy efficient lighting inside the building was also installed and recreates the original feel of the vision, while natural daylighting through the floor to ceiling windows fills the spaces.