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Architectural Photography: Mies van der Rohe's Gas Station gets a FABG do over

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure to attend a presentation at the margin of the 2014 Governor General’s Gold Medal Awards ceremonies, whereby each of the winners presented their awarded projects. One of the smaller, yet intriguing projects was the conversion of an old gas station by Montreal firm FABG architects. In 1966, Mies van der Rohe designed a prototypical gas station for Standard Oil. It ceased commercial operations in 2008 and the city of Montreal listed it as a heritage building in 2009 before initiating the project of a youth and senior activity centre. This simple program required an open space for each group to congregate and participate in communal activities. We couldn’t help but paying it a little visit on our recent trip to Montreal…

FABG architectes converted this old Mies van der Rohe gas station into a youth and senior centre
Converted Mies van der Rohe gas station after sunset
A person walks under the canopy at the converted Mies van der Rohe gas station
Converted Mies van der Rohe gas station after dusk

From the architects:

“We chose to implement solutions originating from the sustainable development field of research to achieve this goal. The new geothermal wells under the asphalt around the building provide the major part of the energy required to operate the building but they also radically diminish the size of the equipment and eliminate the need for a cooling tower on the roof of the building. The new stainless steel gas pumps are in fact air in take and out take devices that are linked by underground ducts to the HVAC system.

They replace the louvers that we would have had to install on the building and this solution contributes to the pre-cooling or heating of the fresh air admitted , the Canadian well effect. The third task was to radicalize the building with the new interventions in order to emphasize its inherent qualities and the essential values that it embodies. Formal unity and simplicity is enhanced by making everything black (teenagers side) or white (elders side). The strength of the roof as a unifying device is reinforced by using the same rhythm of linear fluorescent lighting into the interior spaces (T-5 tubes on dimmers). Transparency is augmented by opening completely the view from one end to the other on the long axis and by using low-iron glass. Specific uses and functions have been integrated into freestanding built-in units that are formally mute to dissimulate the contingencies of daily life. The project is not about the faithful restoration of a monument. It is an interpretation trying to touch and communicate the essence of an artistic vision formulated by someone else in response to a world that is no longer the same. Musicians do this every day.”

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