PROJECT OF THE YEAR: Le Diamant Theatre, Québec City

Coarchitecture, Québec City / Atelier In Situ, Montréal / Jacques Plante architecte, Québec City

Photography: Stephane Groleau

“Theatre is a mirror, a sharp reflection of society,” said French playwright, novelist and screenwriter Yasmina Reza, and what is true spiritually can also be true physically. Echoing the site’s previous life — an abandoned YMCA beside the Cinéma de Paris — this new hall evokes a game of mirrors and reflections, as did the original Art Deco styled hall, using reflective and parallel black surfaces which make up the ceiling, walls, and floors. This game of mirrored images gives the impression of entering a diamond (its name in English), while artifacts from the original hall are reinstalled on the walls and glazed display boxes transformed into a digital display system bear witness to the past. In the heart of the building a luminous triangular void rises several levels, one side defined by a large glass wall slicing diagonally through the former YMCA, and the other side by the theatre’s new opaque volume in exposed concrete. The lobby is warmed by a new wood floor, salvaged wooden structures from old partitions, and molded ceilings conjuring ghosts of past rooms which formerly defined the place. A monumental staircase covered in wood travels vertically through the void’s centre, and within the actual theatre rise walls of black-dyed engraved wood over two levels on the YMCA’s façade.

“This project successfully takes a complex collection of spaces and creates unique moments that each respond beautifully to their contexts and functions. The design embraces both the heritage and the contemporary and reinterprets the relationships of figure to space,” says judge Betsy Williamson, principal of Williamson Williamson. “For example, how the historic framing becomes a decorative object or how the plywood walkway reaches through the lobby. This team has created spaces that link to the history of the existing buildings but don’t succumb to the need for them to be too precious.”

“Drama and restraint are mutually evident, from the bravado auditorium and plywood staircase to sensitive but witty treatment of architectural and decorative layering within the original building.” 

  • Deborah Moss, principal, Moss & Lam

“It seamlessly incorporates a cutting-edge theatre with an intimate gathering space that respectfully reveals heritage aspects of the site along with sophisticated contemporary design gestures.”

  • Trevor Kruse, CEO, Interior Designers of Canada (IDC)