Dolbeau-Mistassini Theatre : Theatrical setup of contemporary architecture
Dolbeau-Mistassini Theatre
Theatrical setup of contemporary architecture
Nathalie Roy, Les points saisis + Paul Laurendeau, January 19, 2009
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


From October 10 to 13, the city of Dolbeau-Mistassini, a municipality located at the northern section of the Saguenay - Lac-Saint-Jean region in Quebec, Canada, inaugurated their new municipal theatre, the result of 30 years’ effort from the citizens to provide their city with a cultural institution and a theatre that has been long awaited. “Practically all season tickets were sold during September, before the opening”, informs Audrey Jobin, general director of the entertainment committee of Dolbeau-Mistassini, “We presently can’t say what impact of the theatre will be beyond the region. But the response is incredible. People that have visited it literally fought for tickets... Already 13 shows out of 23 are sold out, all categories considered. This has never been seen before!”

Winner of the first prize in an architectural competition organized by the municipality in 2005, where 30 proposals were submitted by Quebec architects, this new cultural center has been realized by the consortium formed by architect Paul Laurendeau and architects Jodoin Lamarre Pratte and Associates…


Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


The building serves a double function: an auditorium “à l’italienne” with a capacity of 491 seats, and an oversized foyer to accommodate special events and exhibitions with a capacity of 400 places. Furthermore, the committee is appropriately located, its administrative offices behind the front glass facade, above the main entrance.

On the eastern side, a small court between the artist’s dressing rooms, the foyer and the existing adjacent red brick building, has been designed, bringing in greenery and unifying contrasts of old and new, horizontal and vertical, and light and dark via the private, luminous zone (artist’s green room) and the dark monumental public zone (foyer) respectively.


Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


Beyond formality and geometric simplicity, with fluid lines removed from artifice, the openings are symmetrical and the materials sober, hence new contrasts of glass and steel - elements characteristic of Paul Laurendeau’s signature - insisting on the primacy of form: “It is an aspect too often neglected, it is never talked about seriously enough. The other disciplines must subordinate to architecture, and not the other way around. Initially, I did not ask myself [regarding the ceiling of the auditorium] if a horizontal surface would work from an acoustic point of view! We have created a powerful volume...acoustic parameters were integrated afterwards, and to great satisfaction.”

To attend a live performance is already an incredible aural and sensory experience. To enter the Dolbeau-Mistassini theatre is to discover another dimension to this experience, where mysteries await...


Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


Architecture and theatricality

Inside the building, one space unveils another, forming a row of rooms, like a drawer of Chinese boxes pulled out towards oneself: the entrance leads to a hall that brings one to the foyer, an expansive black symmetrical space with large windows on its sides, facing tall enigmatic doors that are touched in gold. Beyond, in the heart of the building, the auditorium is the place of possibility... Doors barely open, the show already unfolds, revealing a vibrant red circular corridor. Within, the dramatic is at its peak: from damask to velvet, from red to black, to gold and glittering Swarovski crystal of the central chandelier. All evoke the magic of a show and remind us, under the circular gold sky, that time has stopped. Audrey Jobin confides: “It’s warm, it’s soft. Inside, we are taken into another world...”


Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


Paul Laurendeau shows an innate sense of theatricality. There is an exactitude in his bold statement when he affirms that architectural creation is flamboyant and intimate theatre: “We created a cylindrical shape theatre with 2 shallow (2 rows) balconies, aligned one on the other, to avoid an important overhang to break the space (and interrupt the rhythm), because proximity between spectators and artists on stage is essential. Just as it is crucial that the public feels united, that union is essential in the space they share.” It is as pleasure for performers to see this expression, as to feel close to their public.

Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


Ingmar Bergman taught his students to value the requirements of dramatic art rather than its ecstatic effect. The first priority according to the architect: find bearings amongst the most beautiful theatres throughout architectural history, to support those ideas. The second priority: conceive a hall and stage according to professional practice. “The intimacy of the house creates superior acoustics for each spectator. All are part of the acoustical volume and of the general atmosphere,” asserts Laurendeau. The building furthermore offers the latest technological advances, satisfying the requirements of major productions.

Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


”First of all, the design of a successful theatre relies on team work among professionals,” insists Guy Desmarteaux of Go multimedia, stage set and multimedia systems consultant for the project. “You know, in theatre, between the back and front of the house, there is an inevitable separation. It is in the architect’s power to make that disappear... What I find most interesting in this space it its friendliness,” he adds. “No matter where you stand, you feel this proximity”.

Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


Having studied theatre architecture for three years, visiting many of them in Europe and America, and having scourged through research (acquiring some rare first editions in which he has verified his assumptions), Paul Laurendeau intends to share the findings of his research in a book project, a sort of vade mecum on the architecture of this theatre, as a future source of technical and conceptual reference for other architects.

Paul Laurendeau_Matthew Lipscomb
Paul Laurendeau_Matthew Lipscomb


Paul Laurendeau architect_Profile

In 1995, Paul Laurendeau established his architectural practice in Montreal, after working for four years for famous architects in London and Paris. Early work includes projects submitted for national and international architecture competitions, some having received prizes and jury mentions.

Laurendeau work distinguishes itself in his simple and coherent ordering of spaces and by the use of primary geometric forms that organize the architectural composition, playing on proportion, rhythm and the sequence in which the rooms are assembled. Surfaces like the square, the rectangle and the circle are juxtaposed according to rules of symmetry and repetition to impose clarity, sense and memory in the architectural experience.


Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


In 1991, Laurendeau won second prize for his multi-family housing project submitted for L’art de vivre en ville competition by the City of Montreal to bring back suburbanites to the city. In 1997, he won second prize for a single family house in the competition Nouveau confort organized by Hydro-Quebec for its simplicity and efficiency. In 1998, in an international competition organized by the Union Internationale des Architectes for a 100 room hotel in Argentina, his proposal received a jury mention. In 2004, his proposal for a house is selected for publication along with 20 other finalists in an international competition organized by the city of Portland, Oregon, named Living Smart, asking architects to develop a narrow lot house to increase density in suburbia.

Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


In Quebec, Laurendeau designed the interior layout and renovation for a rehearsal room for the Pol Pelletier theatrical company in a former cabaret in downtown Montreal. In 2001, he designed the offices for the ad agency Fashionlab in a space initially designed in 1914 by the famous Quebec architect Ernest Cormier. He received the 2003 Prize of Excellence by the Order of Architects of Quebec for its simplicity and sensitivity to context. In 2004, he designed an exhibition stand for five designers at the SIDIM (Montreal interior design show) and earned first prize in its category. The design for the stand was the result of a research project on space and its proportions, following a grant received by the Quebec Arts Council.

Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


In 2004, Champ Libre hired Laurendeau to design the scenographic arrangement of its International Video and Electronic Arts Manifestation, held in a former incinerator in Montreal. This project was nominated finalist for the 2005 Prize of Excellence by the OAQ for the quality of its lighting and clear organization.

In 2006, he won the competition for the Dolbeau-Mistassini theatre, in consortium with Jodoin Lamarre Pratte & Associates Architects, recognized for its sobriety and unequaled spatial qualities. This project received the 2006 Award of Excellence from the Canadian Architect review. Inaugurated in October 2008, the project received the highest praise from the public, the press and artists that have thus far performed.


Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


Laurendeau’s current projects include a cubical single family house, clad in black fibrocement panels (presently under construction) and a contemporary rooftop extension to a residential condo in Old Montreal.

Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca
Paul Laurendeau_Jodoin Lamarre Pratte_architectes en consortium_Marc Gibert_adecom.ca


Dolbeau-Mistassini Theatre_Technical specifications

Client: Ville de Dolbeau-Mistassini
Budget: 9.1 million dollars CAN
Architects: Paul Laurendeau / Jodoin Lamarre Pratte / architectes en consortium
Design architect: Paul Laurendeau
Project architects: Paul Laurendeau / Marc Laurendeau / Denis Gaudreault
Stage design: Go multimedia
Acoustics: Legault & Davidson
Structural engineer: Dessau Soprin
Mechanical engineer: Roche ltée, Groupe-conseil
Graphic design: Uniform
General contractor: Constructions Unibec Inc.

www.paullaurendeau.com