Warmly Glacial: Minéral

Photo credit: Atelier Welldone

Blanchette Architectes recently designed Minéral, the latest bar project from entrepreneurs and restaurateurs Mathieu Ménard and Steve Grenier. A wine bar by day and a nightclub after dark, the festive space has a particularly discreet atmosphere. It opened on June 27 in the heart of Montreal’s Gay Village.

The starting point was simple: a musical title for each of the three distinct ambiances that succeed each other as the night goes on. Based on that idea, the design team imagined a space whose atmosphere could change radically from its late-afternoon opening to its late-night peak.

Light as raw material

“As they emanate from the architecture, light and colours become raw materials that fill the space,” says Patrick Blanchette, the founder of Blanchette Architectes. Working in close collaboration with the client, the architect imagined an evolving scenic design where “sound vibrations translate to waves of colour, staying with the guest from their first after-work cocktail until late at night.”

Architecture, light and the soundscape were all handled as raw materials to frame the bar’s atmosphere at different times of day. The “warmly glacial” space plays on the warm-cool duality of colours, materials and light. Soothing light is projected onto wall-mounted canvases, reminiscent of art installations like those of James Turrell. Blanchette notes that “before we reimagined it, the space was particularly dark and poorly lit. We had to work with luminous walls and facing mirrors to let the space breathe. The idea was to take control of the lighting.”

Fine cabinetry

Simple materials were used as the backdrop for the dramatic lighting: wood, metal, leather and polycarbonate. The bar’s co-owner, Mathieu Ménard, is not only an entrepreneur, but a cabinetmaker; it was only natural to play to that strength. The space is therefore organized around woodwork: the bar in black-lacquered wood and the imposing, Japanese-inspired wooden ceiling structure – a nod to wine cellars.

One goal was to imagine sufficiently simple details using easy-to-work materials with undeniable intrinsic aesthetic qualities. Plants growing between the polycarbonate panels complete the scene and help create a dreamy, mysterious landscape.

“It’s a place for experiences, where light transforms the space and becomes a material,” says Ménard. “Minéral appeals to all the senses: we are bathed in light that shifts with the changing sound environment, while we sip organic and natural wines, enjoy cocktails and savour Mediterranean-style shared dishes.”