Located in a small farming community just outside of Montreal, the Saint Roch-de-l’Achigan convent was built in 1881 and has been a cherished area landmark ever since. When time came to renovate the building, Affleck de la Riva Architectes were charged with the delicate task of giving the historic building a modern makeover without eliminating its old-world charm.
The main focus in converting the historic building into municipal offices was to re-establish the structure’s presence as a community pillar. In order to bridge the old building’s traditional presence with its new modern functions, the architects decided to update the building’s old characteristics as much as possible while adding an elegant contemporary addition that would function as the new entry lobby. The new rust-colored “glazed stair tower” is modern in style, but meant to pay homage to the old convent’s central bell-tower. By leaving the old facade and adding the new entry on the corner of the building, the new aesthetic manages to emit a modern day energy that still pays homage to the building’s long history.
The building’s new glassed-in stair tower plays against the building’s original mansard roof, limestone masonry, a sculpted wood gallery, giving the structure just enough contrast of old and new. The vertical staircase tower allows in the optimal amount of sunlight, providing a spacious and naturally-lit lobby. Using a blend of artisanal materials such as copper and slate with modern materials such as plate glass, aluminum and sheet steel, the new addition blends into the old convent without overwhelming the main structure.
On the interior, the architects decided to leave the layout and restore original features such as the ornate plaster vault, decorative columns and stained-glass windows. The remaining interior spaces were repurposed as the city’s new the municipal council chambers.
Photography by Marc Cramer