Montréal Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, Canadian Building, Espace pour la vie Project, Design

Montréal Planetarium : Building

Espace pour la vie, Avenue Pierre-de Coubertin, Quebec, Canada

24 Sep 2009

Montréal Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium

Architects: Cardin Ramirez Julien – Ædifica_Architecture + Design

Espace pour la vie

Address: 4801 Avenue Pierre-de Coubertin, Montréal, QC H1V 3N4, Canada

Phone: +1 514-868-3000

Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium in Montreal : latest information + photos from May 2014

“There were more stars in the sky than I had expected.”
Aleksei Leonov, first person to walk in space


Most of us had our first real glimpse of the wonders of the night sky far from the lights of towns and cities, in the heart of nature.

Montréal Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium Montréal Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium Montréal Planetarium

In Québec, a clearing in the woods or the shore of a lake, for example, are places where many of us have come to appreciate the heavens in their infinite grandeur, aglow with countless stars.

In an evocation of this first experience, the future Montréal Planetarium sets the stage for a special relationship with nature through views that open onto the sky, direct contact with new plantings and the unveiling of new landforms.


-The creation of a physical and visual link between visitors and the sky through two major volumes that suggest instruments of astronomical observation, and which house the two spheres of the Star Theatres.
– Work on the topography of the Olympic site to provide for flow throughout the public spaces, as well as the delivery of natural light to the building’s lowest level.
– The greening of the site to bring added value to an environment that is dominated by mineral elements and to rekindle memories of stargazing in the woods.


The site chosen for the new Planetarium is unique for its varied architectural and urban make-up. A number of landmarks nearby bear witness to significant moments in Québec history, including the Olympic Stadium, the Biodôme, the Maurice-Richard Arena and Centre Pierre-Charbonneau.

The Planetarium integrates respectfully with this exceptional environment and contributes to the value of the ensemble.

The first objective is to encourage users to appropriate the site by offering a variety of exterior environments that are designed on a human scale and thereby complement the neighbouring buildings and outdoor spaces:

-The area adjacent to the Place des vainqueurs acquires a new dynamic feeling through the clear definition of the space and the addition of an adjoining café-terrace.
-A new wooded area at the entrance to the Planetarium provides shade and naturalizes the site.
-The green roof of the new building is connected to the site, creating easy access to green space.
-An agora, bounded on one side by the Planetarium and located next to the Place des vainqueurs, offers an ideal site for gatherings and performances or other presentations.

The second gesture involves the topographic manipulation of the Olympic site’s concrete slab. The slab is reworked and reoriented to create new landform shapes, introduce a new flow to the public spaces and allow movement across the various levels.

Lastly, the new Planetarium needs to be clearly identifiable among neighbouring structures. The two optical tubes pointing toward the sky call attention to the site and give it a strong visual identity. This feature is visible from Pierre-de-Coubertin and Viau Streets, and can eve be seen from Sherbrooke Streets.

Montréal Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium Montréal Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium Montréal Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium


Pointing skyward like telescopes exploring the universe, the optical tubes convey the nature of the building from the outside. The main entrance is accessible via a footbridge that crosses a wooded area below: the ground falls away and the sky comes closer as one approaches the building through the treetops.

Inside, visitors discover the two spheres located beneath the cones and housing the Star Theatres, as well as a space that opens up over three stories, linked by a “fault line” that extends from the Biôdome at the bottom level through to the top floor. The gaze is drawn upward and then meets the sky via the openings in the optical tubes.

Adjoining the lobby and located at the heart of the building, the foyer gives access to both Star Theatres. Various spaces related to the site’s operation, management and programming are located near the foyer, in a section on the building’s north side that is reserved for the Planetarium’s private spaces. The exhibition room, located on a balcony on the top level, is accessible via a gently sloping ramp that circles one of the Star Theatres. This ramp also serves as an extension of the exhibition room, with the space above the ramp and up to the skylights available for the display of large objects. Public spaces, the boutique and a café are situated around the lobby, on the ground level of the Olympic site. Their placement sets them in dialogue with the site’s outdoor life and lets them benefit from already existing activities.

The lower level, in keeping with program specifications, is primarily dedicated to visitor groups. This is also the level at which the Planetarium and the Biodôme are connected. The group lobby takes full advantage of its placement next to the Place des vainqueurs, which provides access, natural light and views. The location also provides easy access to both the Biodôme and the Planetarium, as well as to the cluster of spaces shared by these two facilities. The naturally-lit lobby offers a view of the new wooded area, and opens up onto the three floors, with a progression through to the actual Planetarium: the auditorium, the exhibition room and, of course, the two Star Theatres.

The various experiences offered within the Planetarium can be summarized by two main elements a relationship with nature on the horizontal axis, and a relationship with the sky on the vertical axis (expressed through the fault line that extends from level 100 to level 300, the Star Theatres, the optical tubes and the pathways between these and the spheres).

Montréal Planetarium – Design Team
Architecture : Cardin Ramirez Julien – Ædifica_Architecture + Design
Structural engineering : SNC Lavalin
Mechanical engineering : Dupras Ledoux ingénieurs
Landscape architect : Fauteux et Associés

Montréal Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium – Building Information

Winning team and their partners
Cardin Ramirez Julien, Ædifica_Architecture + Design, SNC Lavalin, Dupras Ledoux ingénieurs, Fauteux et Associés Architectes Paysagistes

In brief
The new Planetarium will immerse visitors in nature and astronomy, while fitting in seamlessly on the Olympic Installations Board site. The green roof will create an oasis of greenery alongside the enormous concrete structures of the Olympic Stadium and Biodôme.

Two huge tubes pointed skyward will evoke observation instruments, like telescopes gazing out into the Universe. They will give the Planetarium a strong identity and make it easy to identify and find, for visitors coming at it from Pierre-de-Coubertin, Viau or Sherbrooke streets.

The tubes will also act as skylights and connect the Planetarium directly with the sky. At their base, spheres representing stars will house the star theatres. A device will make it possible to control the amount of light let in by the skylights and to accentuate the spheres/stars. Each theatre will offer a different experience.

All three levels of the building will receive abundant direct and indirect light through the many windows and the agora outside the entrance. To meet LEED Platinum standards, the building has a host of water, air, light and energy management systems. In addition to the plantings on a large part of the roof, a wooded area will offer shaded spaces.

Architectural competition
– Two-stage architectural competition of international scope;
– Jury: 10 members
– 62 firms submitted entries as part of the first stage;
– First stage of the competition: 5 finalists were selected from the projects submitted anonymously in mid-January.
: Selected projects: Atelier Big City and L’OEUF; Cardin Ramirez Julien; Chevalier Morales architectes; Croft Pelletier architectes and Saucier + Perrotte architectes.
– Second stage of the competition: the winning team was selected in mid-May. This choice was
submitted to the city of Montréal municipal council for approval.
: Cardin Ramirez Julien, Ædifica_Architecture + Design, SNC Lavalin, Dupras Ledoux ingénieurs, Fauteux et Associés Architectes Paysagistes

Next Stages
Spring 2010 Final version of the plans and specifications
Fall 2010 Construction begins
2012 Official opening

Montréal Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium images / information from Cardin Ramirez Julien

Location: Montréal, Quebec, Canada

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