When Victoria School opened its doors in 1888, it served a rural community on the outskirts of Montreal. Designed by Alexander Francis Dunlop in the Queen Ann style, it is among the oldest school buildings in the city, and finds itself today in one of the highest density urban neighbourhoods in Canada.
The recycling of this heritage structure as a vocational school for culinary and hospitality services is part of an urban design initiative for the revitalisation of an entire downtown block that combines historic restoration, new construction, innovative community-organizing strategies and new environmental design techniques.
The historic building is composed of three pavilions originally linked on ground level by opaque passages. Lifting these links to form glass bridges, the project creates a unified ground plane allowing for free movement through a series of landscaped courts and gardens. The newly landscaped grounds are at once a forecourt for the school entry, outdoor rest areas for students and staff, and terraces that engage the surrounding streetscape. Contrasting with the transparency of the glass bridges, the masonry volumes of the three pavilions have been restored using limestone, brick, and a slate and copper roof.
Movement through the project is conceived as both a progressive discovery of the school’s spaces and a sequence through historic time. From city sidewalk one passes through the original Queen Ann portico, down a restored Victorian-era hall and into the central dining – reception era. Located at the center of a cruciform plan, the reception area is a space of transition between old and new: restored Victorian details meet glass and aluminum finishes. Moving beyond the reception area one crosses a glass bridge and enters a modern kitchen fitted with state-of-the-art stainless steel equipment.
Public consultation and neighbourhood outreach for this project were assured by Eco-Quartier Peter McGill, who were also responsible for the adjoining urban design initiatives. The school is the first LEED certified project by a school board in Montreal.