In 2005, before the Library was opened, there was a desire to set up a café bistro. In the intimate atmosphere surrounded by padded architectural elements, the Café stands out with its simple, innovative design by architects Menkès-Shooner-Dagenais-LeTourneux, who worked to create the Grande Bibliothèque. This transitional, friendly, relaxing place with its 44 seats with service was initially planned for the Main Hall on Berri Street. The café design was a formidable challenge, given the monumental space of the Main Hall, the traffic, and acoustic constraints. After the initial sketches and a sound study of the site, the creation of an open café with no walls to respect the continuity of this huge space was deemed almost impossible; the features of the Hall were more suitable for an exhibition space. So another site was quickly proposed by the architects for the future café. The secondary hall, running east to west, between the Savoie and Berri street entrances was then earmarked.
The ceiling layout, not to mention the more modest size of the Savoie-Berri Hall meant better sound control and fewer constraints for “compartmentalizing” the café. The result was an “open’ space without partitions, preserving the building’s sleek, fluid look. The café space has been defined using existing columns in the middle of the area, marking off a passageway on one side, and the café on the other. Three glass walls attached to the concrete beams at the eastern-most point, as well as “screen totems”, freestanding acoustic walls in line with the columns help define the café’s boundaries. Lastly, three full-height wood wall rooms were added to the existing full-height wood wall, near the auditorium entrance, right next to the café.
Located near the large exhibition room and ’Auditorium, the elegant, contemporary Café des lettres harmoniously blends into its environment. This discrete creation, respectful of the sober, clean cachet of the building and its materials reflects the initial nature in the choice of furnishings and dark materials, which is consistent with the formal aesthetics of the existing architecture.
Located right in the heart of the Latin Quarter, a few steps from Saint-Denis and the UQAM campus, the Café des lettres provides a table d’hôte and a simple, but tasty menu. The Café is always a regular stop for the many Grande Bibliothèque visitors (which average 10,000 per day), who are happy to stay a while longer in these pleasant surroundings, and by those working downtown, who enjoy the café before heading for the metro since the Grande Bibliothèque has direct access to the Berri-UQAM metro station. The Café has expanded… in fact, in order to meet the needs of all clients, the café now has 35 new seats for selfservice, plus a terrace.