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© Raphaël Thibodeau


Client: Ville de Montréal, Espace pour la vie Categorie: renovation and interior design Usage: museum boutique Year built: 2020 Area: 2,100 ft2 Address: 4777 Avenue Pierre de Coubertin, Montréal Budget: 260,000$ Cost: 200,000$ In consortium with MESSIER designers Project manager: Gestion BGC Metal furniture fabricator: Métal CN Photo Credits: Raphaël Thibodeau


A boutique inspired by nature for the largest “House of life” in North America.

The consortium formed by ADHOC Architectes and MESSIER designers presents the new souvenir boutique of the Montreal Biodôme. The mandate given by Espace pour la vie (the city of Montreal) was to renovate the 2,100 ft2 boutique to revive the user experience of the space, increase traffic, and stimulate sales. The proposed interior design communicates Espace pour la vie’s mission and contributes to visitors’ experience of the unique identity of the Biodôme while proposing a furniture arrangement that can adapt to the evolving needs of the client to ensure the sustainability of the installation.

The challenge of creating a boutique that culminates an impressive museum tour
Opened to the public in 1992, the Biodôme is located in the old Vélodrome used for the Olympic Games of summer 1976. The building is characterized by the omnipresence of its imposing concrete structure and generous fenestration. As part of its vast Migration project, Espace pour la vie wished to redesign each of their spaces. Nestled inside the new towering white screens that weave through the framework of the building, the Biodôme boutique is located at the end of the museum promenade. It must therefore communicate a coherency with the museum installations but also demarcate itself. The role of the boutique is thus to conclude visitors’ journeys through the museum while stimulating their imagination. The solution: using the Biodôme’s own DNA as inspiration.

A living boutique: a renewable experience to sustainably increase the realtor’s sales today and in the future
To be able to create the most frequented commercial space of Espace pour la vie, the consortium of ADHOC Architectes and MESSIER designers proposed an adaptable boutique, equipped to anticipate change as well as fluctuating demands. Like a living organism capable of adapting and responding to its environment, this living boutique will evolve with the passing seasons and years. The modular arrangement will allow the boutique manager to adapt their product line to respond to the variable number of visitors and to changing clientele preferences. This approach pays tribute to Espace pour la vie’s most important teachings: the adaptive evolution between wildlife and its natural environment in perpetual change.

An experience of identity: biomimicry at the heart of the creative process
The concept stems from a refined geometric and formal research. While investigating the Biodôme’s ecosystems, the consortium identified sources of inspiration allowing them to develop a narrative framework unique to the Biodôme boutique. The study of the living world drove the design team to research organization at the cellular level, specifically on the recurrence of certain structures and their forms. Several natural phenomena of different scales, like the creation of cells in a beehive, the erosion of rock formations, and the formation of basalt columns provided formal inspiration for the project.

When one thinks of cellular organization, one thinks naturally of the cell: the fundamental, biological unit of structure in every living being capable of autonomous reproduction. The Biôdome being the “House of Life”, it was fitting for the team to draw a formal parallel between the natural cell and the module. The design approach rests thus on the creation of simple elements (the cells) that can be spatially arranged and connected to construct complex modules. These modules, once combined, respond to the operational and functional need of showcasing products and defining space.

Exhaustive research on natural forms and cellular organization led the architects and designers to formal discoveries and subsequent geometric explorations to determine which forms would be the most optimal and versatile. From the hexagon to the dodecahedron to the stucoid, the hexagonal frustum was finally chosen for this project’s particular needs.

Durable furniture for a minimalist boutique that emphasizes the essential
The furniture modules consist of three base elements to which accessories can be added. This concept allows for an almost infinite number of compositions and reconfigurations of the elements by moving, rotating, and assembling them in different ways. The configuration is thus able to adapt to the evolution of the boutique’s needs depending on changing sales and products.

The three base elements each have a different size and are painted a specific tint of white. Carefully chosen, the three tints of white break the uniformity of industrial production and express the natural variation of colors found in geological formations and in nature.

The main material used for the fabrication of the modules is laser-cut, folded, and welded steel covered with a heavy-duty baked-on polymer paint. Oak was favored for the wooden elements. These materials were chosen for their exceptional durability and minimal environmental footprint.

The space is minimalist in order to emphasize sustainable products and ensure smooth customer circulation. The furniture can accommodate toys, plush toys, jewelry, sweets, books, and clothing, which have all been carefully selected by the Biodôme team.

A budgetary feat: Reduction of project costs thanks to a judicious choice
Conscious of designing a public project without cost overruns in order to respect taxpayers, ADHOC Architectes and MESSIER designers proposed a different approach to tendering which, while respecting the established rules in all respects, has made it possible to save nearly 25% on the overall cost of manufacturing and installing the project compared to the initially estimated budget. Rather than proceeding with a simple tendering process for a general contractor who would take charge of all the wood fabrication, metal module fabrication, assembly, and installation, the design team proposed to adapt the call for tenders process by splitting it up according to the expertise of each of the manufacturers and the sub-contractors. This made it possible to facilitate follow-ups and to maximize client savings, all while guaranteeing very high-quality work. In a world where cynicism about cost overruns in projects has become commonplace, the design team demonstrated otherwise while also setting a high standard for the quality of design and manufacturing.