Espace Riopelle case Instructions for a successful transformation

Espace Riopelle case  Instructions for a successful transformation

Projects to expand or transform cultural venues are often fraught with pitfalls. What are best practices? Traps to avoid? Journalism He was interested in the case of the Musée National des Beaux-Arts de Quebec (MNBAQ), whose construction of the Lassonde Pavilion is often cited as an example, and whose new Espace Riopelle is currently being built.

The question is worth asking. How can we ensure that a construction or expansion project not only reflects the architect’s artistic vision? Or the point of view of the institution’s sole general manager or its board of directors? What safeguards are in place or the ideal management situation to ensure that the project meets the practical, aesthetic and museological objectives?

MNBAQ Director General, Jean-Luc Murray, believes that several factors must be taken into account. But the most important thing, he tells us, is the development of the design phase. He tells us: “This stage should be a dialogue between the different parties: the museum management, the sponsors, the foundation, government representatives, and the architect who presents us with proposals. »

In the case of the Espace Riopelle, this “integrated design” phase began several months ago. Plans were made. But they have evolved a lot.

Photo by Yann Doublet, Le Soleil Archives,

MNBAQ Director General Jean-Luc Murray during the announcement of Quebec City’s financial participation in the summer of 2022

Jean-Luc Murray told us: “I found it fascinating. It’s a little longer, but everyone managed to get their point across. At certain stages, we invited people from the community, sustainable development specialists, etc. »

I was more insistent on the museum dimensions, the architect took care of the structural issues, the Riopelle Foundation also had its priorities, and the sponsors had their say, but in the end, we had to reach a consensus.

Jean-Luc Murray, Director General of the Musée National des Beaux Arts in Quebec

The Riopelle Foundation, which intends to bequeath to the state about 70 works from various private collections, particularly wanted to “give back to Tribute to Rosa Luxemburg (Indeed at MNBAQ) is a place worth working for,” its general manager, Manon Gauthier, told us.

“Unlike an infrastructure project where we build a place and then decide what we want to put in it, the whole project was developed around our desire to bequeath major works, which add to the existing public collection (about 450 works). So the plans were designed based on all the works that will be Presented at Espace Riopelle. »

Photo by Marco Campanozzi, LA PRESSE archive

Director General of the Riopelle Foundation, Manon Gauthier

It does not reduce the architectural function, on the contrary, it has created a project completely integrated into the artist’s work.

Manon Gauthier, Director General of the Riopelle Foundation

Finally, Manon Gauthier states that the place is “in perfect harmony” with the artist’s vision. “It is a place nestled between the river, a place as historic as the Plains of Abraham, a stone’s throw from the old prison, now the Charles Bélargé Pavilion, where Jean-Paul Riopelle dreamed in the 1980s of establishing his own prison.” institution. »

Mr Murray also praised the work of architect Eric Gauthier, of FABG.

It takes the right attitude, because there are a lot of people who have criticized the project. But I say to myself: How lucky we were, it is 500 times better than it was in the beginning!

Jean-Luc Murray, Director General of the Musée National des Beaux Arts in Quebec

Jean-Luc Murray explains that two committees are monitoring things: the Steering Committee, which drives the project forward and brings together the museum project director, the Riopelle Foundation, the Ministry of Culture and Communications and the Société du Infrastructure (SQI). ); The Major Issues Committee, which addresses the thorny issues that arise at every stage.

This committee brings together the same stakeholders as the Steering Committee, but we also find sponsors Michael Audin and Pierre Lassonde (who have made donations in business and money), as well as the Chrétien Desmarais family (who are making a monetary donation).

“I believe that the contribution of beneficiaries is also the key to success,” Mr. Murray adds. It puts positive pressure on them to complete the project, because they want it done quickly and well. In the case of the Espace Riopelle project, Mr. Audain, for example, has construction experience, so he is already involved in the project. The other element is that the museum is the construction project manager, not the government (through SQI), which plays an advisory role. »

The project, estimated at 45 million, according to information released by MNBAQ, could be increased at the time of invitation to bids if we rely on the overheating of the construction sector over the past two years. A more precise financial package is scheduled to be announced in the coming weeks.

A matter of proportion

As for the exhibition areas, Jean-Luc Murray found a happy medium with various stakeholders to define the interior space – with a controlled environment – ​​and the open-plan public space. All this is planned based on the works that will be displayed there.

Photo by Yann Doublet, Le Soleil Archives,

the job Tribute to Rosa Luxemburg It will be displayed in a special room dedicated to it.

“In the case of Riopelle, it was important for us to have a large proportion of showrooms where the environment is controlled,” he tells us. Rooms that suit business sizes. On a total exhibition area of ​​5500 m2⁠2We have more than 3000 m⁠2 of the room area, or approximately 54%. We had a similar ratio during the construction of the Lassonde Pavilion (which opened in 2016), which is almost three times larger. »

According to Mr Murray, tenders will be out by Christmas, work should start in early 2024, and if all goes to plan, Espace Riopelle should open in the summer of 2026.

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