'It’s every architect’s dream to design a building connected to both a prison and a church,' said OMA's Shohei Shigematsu as he surveyed the newly completed Pierre Lassonde Pavilion at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec (MNBAQ). Rising vertically as a stack of three steel and cement boxes enveloped by a mix of opaque, transparent, and translucent glass, the 14,900 sq m expansion, which opens to the public today, is an invigorating and impressive connector of past and present, global and local, city and park. 'In the end,' added Shigematsu, 'art becomes a catalyst.'

Nestled beside the Saint-Dominique church and its presbytery on Québec City’s leafy Grande Allée, the building is a glistening gateway to the museum and surrounding National Battlefields Park. A dramatically cantilevered roof beckons visitors inside the glass lobby and beyond, whether up the monumental, three-storey staircase to new exhibition spaces (including the museum’s first permanent exhibition galleries for its collections of contemporary art and decorative arts and design) or down to a passageway that leads to the three other buildings: the neoclassical original structure, the former Québec City jail, and the transparent central pavilion. En route is Jean-Paul Riopelle’s jazzy Tribute to Rosa Luxemburg (1992), a monumental fresco that the museum has not until now had the opportunity to exhibit in full.

Lassonde, chairman of the museum’s board of trustees and a mining magnate whose precious metals business is alluded to in the new building’s massive golden elevator, does not shy away from alluding to Bilbao-scaled ambitions for his namesake pavilion. He envisioned the structure as one that would evoke an instant reaction—'Wow!'—and is particularly enthusiastic about its extraordinary relationship with nature. 'We wanted a bijou,' he said, 'and I think we have achieved that.'

A collaboration between OMA and Montréal-based Provencher_Roy, the Canadian $103.4 million project almost doubles the museum’s existing floor space while adding a 256-seat auditorium, café, terrace, and library-like gift shop. Especially notable are the interstitial spaces that offer opportunities for contemplation and for savoring the abundant views. 'It’s a new port of entry to the city,' said Line Ouellet, director of the MNBAQ. 'OMA provided a clear direction, and the result is a truly global aesthetic experience.'