The work will only begin in 2020, but Minister Hélène David already believes that the last phase of the Saint Joseph’s Oratory renovations will make this place an “international treasure.”
"The Montreal and Quebec communities deserved such an essential project," declared the MNA for Outremont following the announcement on Monday, June 4, 2018 of the winners of the architectural competition organized by Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal. The purpose of the competition was to give the public access to the Basilica's inter dome, which has thus far been inaccessible to pilgrims and visitors, and to create, at the very top, a unique observatory "with the city as the object of contemplation."
A multidisciplinary team composed of architects (Atelier TAG and Architecture49), building and mechanical engineers and lighting and scenography specialists won the competition, which was launched in December 2017. "Eighteen "high-quality" proposals were submitted, and a committee took two days to evaluate the services of the four finalists," explained jury president Carlo Carbone, architect and professor at UQAM.
"The jury found that the winners displayed a sensitivity to the needs of Saint Joseph's Oratory through their respect for the current infrastructure and the simplicity of the presentation they proposed for the site," he added.
Search for ascension
Using illustrations, architect Manon Asselin explained that "the Oratory experience we know today will diversify" thanks to the project proposed by her team. The designers asked themselves, "how do we continue such a powerful momentum as the one created by the mountain and how do we arrange and then unveil the spaces yet to be seen by the public?" Their answer lies in the ambulatory, between the inner cupola and outer dome, perceived "as an ascending experience."
"The walkway's design capitalizes on this search for ascension," added the architect. Visitors will first take a "contemplative ride to the top" in an elevator. In small groups of seventeen people, they will then enter the skylight, the highest viewpoint overlooking Montreal, 243 metres above the Saint Lawrence River.
"Feeling regenerated after their pilgrimage to the top, visitors will then go back down into the inter dome and discover it from a different perspective." The descent, "at a calmer pace, with more information and richer in content" will then lead them to the Oratory's revitalized museum, which will present the collection of over 30,000 objects and archival documents.
An extensive project
"For more than fifteen years, the Oratory's management has been working towards improving the way this site meets the demands of our fast-changing world while maintaining its character and mission," said Father Claude Grou, the sanctuary's rector, prior to announcing the winners of the architectural competition.
"We had to reexamine our access ways and our public and sacred spaces to ensure that the pilgrims and visitors of today and tomorrow find that they are received here in a way that is worthy of this name" in this sanctuary dreamed of and created by Brother André.
"We are arriving at the final stages of this great project, which will provide Montreal with a remarkable landmark where spirituality, culture and beauty meet in an urban setting," added the rector.
The announcement of the final phase of the Saint Joseph's Oratory renovation project, an initiative "that was off the government radars for a while" and that the Liberal government "revived in 2014," is an "historic occasion that will not get enough media coverage," MNA and Minister Hélène David said regrettably.
"And yet it is an historic day in the timelines of Saint Joseph's Oratory and Quebec, because the Oratory is closely and inseparably linked to the history of Quebec and its citizens."
"I am honoured to have taken part in my way in this important part of our history, when we put the project back on track. This site is emblematic of Quebec's history, a place belonging to the citizens of Quebec who, with their humble contributions, believed in the project of Brother André, a great visionary who helped build Quebec," she stated.
We estimate that all the phases of the Oratory's development project will cost approximately $80 million. The governments of Quebec and Canada will give $50 million, while the City of Montreal confirmed that it will contribute $10 million.
The construction of a new reception pavilion, the reconfiguration of the grounds' landscaping and the creation of a new outdoor multifunctional pedestrian area are among the projects that will be worked on over the next two years. The work in the inter dome and the development of "the ascent from the ground to the sky" will begin in 2020.