There is nothing that can prepare you for the beauty that is the newest wing of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) in Quebec City. This museum of fine art is located in the French Canadian provincial capital of Quebec. Originally opened in 1933 as a natural history and fine art museum, it has morphed into an exclusive fine and decorative art museum. The museum consists of four buildings the newest of which was inaugurated in late spring. I had been looking forward to visiting the brand new Pierre Lassonde pavilion.
Located on the edge of the Plains of Abraham and the Grande Allée, it is uniquely placed in the heart of the city with nature at its backdoor. When you tour the grounds you will see how the natural setting and unobstructed light is used to an advantage in the new wing. The cantilever, glass and steel structure was designed by Shohei Shigematsu, associate architect from the New York firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). The MNBAQ is made almost exclusively of glass and is connected to the other buildings via an underground tunnel. It was built to house contemporary art, decorative arts and large installation pieces. With its 14,900 square metres in surface area, you enter a large foyer with a gourmet bistro to your right, a book store and coat checks to your left and a spectacular staircase directly in front of you.
The expansion of the museum began in 2007 when the museum purchased the Saint-Dominique presbytery and church. The church remains but the residences made way for the new building . When you look through the courtyard, you will see the church still standing beside the new museum. This $103.4 million dollar project was a labour of love for Pierre Lassonde (Chair of the Board of Directors of MNBAQ). He was also the largest private benefactor with a $10 million dollar donation. You will be drawn into the space because it is light and airy with windows that bring in the natural light into this stark white space. As you walk in you will see the first large piece installation that is not inside but outside in a courtyard adjacent to the museum. This building is the fourth structure to be added to the Musée and is clearly the most ambitious.
Ludovic Boney, Une Cosmologie sans genèse (A Cosmology without Genesis)
There are four temporary exhibition galleries on the first floor. You can ascend to the second floor by the majestic stair case. It is wide, long and so beautiful. Take your time as you ascend, touch the bannister, feel the stone beneath your feet and have a good look outside. From the main floor, you can also descend to the Auditorium and the tunnel that will lead you to the other pavilions. With the cold winter weather in Quebec City, being able to access the other buildings by an underground tunnel will be very convenient. On this trip, I only had time to visit the Pierre Lassonde pavilion but I know I must return to see the rest of the museum as it holds an impressive amount of art created by talented Quebec artists (as per its mandate).
A view from the second floor of the stairs. You can see the lobby from the angle below.
This is the view to the bottom floor from the top of the second floor.
On the second floor you will find the permanent contemporary art exhibits. The reason I love contemporary art is because it brings very familiar objects into focus in very unique ways. If you want to see more of the art please pop over to my Wordless Wednesday post. I have showcased some of my favourite pieces. There are a few that I would have loved to have shown you but alas, we were not allowed!
With a garden roof on the third floor you are struck by nature surrounding you within a very modern setting. The view from the garden of the other museum structures is spectacular. From here, you can also see the Plains of Abraham and the St. Lawrence River. Be sure and have your camera ready. If you are lucky enough to be there around dusk, the light will take your breath away.
There are over 90,000 plants on the rooftop
You will reach the third floor by the stairs that are position so that you are outside of the building. This particular feature was done so that you feel as if you are in a treetop – just outside in nature. You can see the public park and the Grand Allee. Compared to the grand open staircase you feel somewhat closed in and compacted. As you can see from the instagram picture it is stunning at night.
The entire pavilion has three types of class: transparent, translucent and opaque. It is upstairs on the third floor that you will see the opaque glass. It is etched with tiny dots that add texture to the glass. It is also a fun optical illusion when you get up close and look through the dots. This was done deliberately and not just for aesthetics. It helps provide a form of insulation.
There really are not words to describe the beauty and the scale of the Pierre Lassonde pavilion of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ). I hope to return soon to have another look. Maybe in the dead of winter. It will be interesting to see the light and the reflection of the snow against the building. Or better yet, I want to see where those tunnels will take me. To more quebecois artists I hope.