In the 1930s, Père Émile Legault and his famous Compagnons de St-Laurent rehearsed and performed in the basement of a church then located on Montréal’s Dorchester Boulevard. When the building was moved to the grounds of the Cégep St-Laurent, the hall underwent its first renovation. The Salle Émile-Legault has since been viewed as no longer meeting the expectations of the public and in need of a major makeover.
The challenge was to solve the hall’s technical problems and to refresh the institution’s overall image. The solution adopted by the architects was to take full advantage of the building’s existing assets and to adapt them, when needed, to the new requirements.
The former porte cochère was glazed in and equipped with a street level elevator providing people with reduced mobility direct access to the foyer area. The slope of the existing hall was accentuated, allowing spectators to have a more intimate contact with the stage. Stage and sound equipment was incorporated in a shell-like structure superimposed to the hall’s ceiling and the walls
Given the overwhelming presence of stone, the architects chose to use color in order to create a strong visual impact. The foyer and the access points were painted bright orange while blue became the symbol of the hall and its related functions. Aware of the descent into the depths of the building, the spectator is suddenly faced with an unexpected ethereal scenery. The ceiling, the walls, the sloping floors and even the seating are part of this illusion inspired by painter René Magritte.
Orange is used mainly for the foyer and its ancillary spaces to act as a counterpart and provide a strong contrast with the monastic grey shades of the stone structure. Discrete objects, such as the cloakroom counter or the bar, are treated as solid orange volumes blending into the orange walls beyond. The same color serves as an orientation device leading spectators from the main entrance and the foyer to the hall.