Montréal-Nord High School
By : TLA + UN + NEUF
GRANDS PRIX DU DESIGN – 16th edition
Discipline : Architecture
Categories : Other categories in architecture / Concept & Unbuilt : Gold Certification
A next-generation high school is taking shape in Montréal-Nord. It will accommodate nearly 1,800 students, with delivery expected for 2024. This project will provide a flexible environment that stimulates growth of young students and their community.
In a courtyard at the heart of the project stands a mature tree—an embodiment of changing and evolving nature. This landscaped space provides a place for gathering and raising awareness, and allows nature to enter into the very core of the school by blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior spaces, uniting humans with their environment. This tree symbolizes the growth of each student and his or her development throughout the academic journey. It serves as a benevolent reminder of the importance of providing fertile soil for each young person so that they can achieve their full potential.
Around this pivotal space revolves a true community hub, in which open and bright interior spaces unfold where students are allowed to circulate freely. The blueprint does not ascribe any assigned program or designated use to this area, treating it instead as a single multipurpose space which crosses the entire building and finds its strongest expression around the atrium and its bleachers.
The interior layout has been carefully considered to encourage exchanges. In addition to conventional classrooms, the academic setting is enriched in more informal ways, such as rooms for collaboration and relaxation. These spaces encourage socializing through measures including non-traditional seating, erasable surfaces and display areas.
A psychological delimitation of the spaces is achieved by working with materials, finishes, and colours. In such a large school, prescribing a clear strategy to help users situate themselves within the space strengthens their sense of ownership and security. Therefore, a colour palette was developed to facilitate spatial orientation in conjunction with signage. The colours chosen draw inspiration from nature, with shades of green, blue, and orange accenting the common areas. Gradated shades and textures on the floors and ceilings encourage movement. This spatial strategy invites each individual to explore the premises at their own pace.
The architectural envelope is clad in wood, aluminum, concrete and natural stone. The interiors, meanwhile, highlight the use of local materials with low VOC content and emissions, thereby significantly contributing to the improvement of ambient air quality. The project targets LEED BD+C certification and takes a biophilic approach exemplified by prioritization of native plant species. Its program focuses on the supply of natural light, efficient water management, the embracing of active modes of transportation and the implementation of innovative geothermal systems.
The project’s environmental sensitivity and its implementation of dedicated spatial and technical mechanisms make the Montréal-Nord High School a teaching tool in and of itself. Its inclusion of vegetation, its access to natural light, and the quality of its views provide an improved learning environment for students and school personnel, which is further enhanced by strategies dedicated to health, well-being, and the creation of meaningful connections.