Neo-Gothic temple in Quebec recast as ‘House of Literature’
Canadian architecture firm Chevalier Morales has added a contemporary annex to a Gothic Revival church in the historic neighbourhood of Old Quebec. The Maison de la Littérature library offers a peaceful escape from its dense urban setting, and, since its opening, has already become ‘a vibrant home to Canadian literature’, says the firm.
The Wesley Temple has had a tumultuous history. First conceived in 1848 by architect Edward Staveley as a Protestant church, it was closed in 1931, before being transformed in 1944 into a public library and concert hall for the Institut Canadien library group. The latter was closed to the public in 1999. Now, the renewed and extended Maison de la Littérature aims to offer fresh opportunity for the Institut, to help it pursue the mission of offering reading spaces for the public, while remaining one of the oldest libraries in the province of Quebec.
Chevalier Morales aimed to de-clutter the multi-use Wesley Temple, creating new direction for its creative future. Along with the library spaces, the Maison de la Littérature’s innovative programme also includes a concert hall, bistro, exhibition spaces, resident writer’s apartment, along with various studios to be rented by local students and artists.
As well as allocating functional space to serve these new purposes, the architects were keen to preserve and restore the (impressive) original structure, with its attractive grey bricks, arched windows, and turrets – hence the decision to create a separate volume, in which their modish architectural ideas had space to stretch, without the constraints of preservation. The siting of the new addition – which takes the form of a minimalist, transparent box with copper accents – was carefully conceived in order to preserve the temple’s integrity and presence as a civic centre, while enhancing the site: now a glass jewel in the crown of the historic neighbourhood. §