- November 26, 2020
Brutalist design reflected a newfound openness to the world
This article looks back at one of Lemay’s first projects: a new type of church, defined by an exciting era.
The Province of Quebec lay on the cusp of its Quiet Revolution and historic Expo 67 when the Church of Saint-Jean Baptiste de La Salle commissioned a new, more contemporary building in 1961.
Georges Lemay and Claude Leclerc (who founded what would later become the Lemay firm) were known for their bold, modernist architecture. With the east-end church, they designed a work unique in its genre.
Using concrete’s newfound power and plasticity, they merged volume and bell tower to symbolize the Church’s growing emphasis on unity, while designing wide, welcoming spaces to reflect its evangelical evolution.
The roof’s dramatic curved form was radically different from churches’ traditionally straight lines. It employed a new system of prefabricated concrete panels laid over steel tension cables, with side beams poured on-site.
Finally, in what would later become a pillar of Lemay’s distinctive approach, the team had the original idea to work closely with another design discipline in developing the concept. With artist Claude Théberge, the architects collaborated to integrate architecture and interior design.
The result would win a national architectural award in 1967. And while it wasn’t entirely popular at first, the church became a tangible symbol of Montreal’s renaissance and openness to the world.
It maintains much the same appearance today, its soaring silhouette strangely similar to the following decade’s iconic Montreal Tower in the nearby Olympic Park. How do you find it compares to other churches from the same period?