Empress Porch

A transition project to showcase the Empress Theatre
La Pépinière

Current state – a facade hidden behind a fence, making the wide sidewalk inaccessible in front of the building.

Inside intervention – a self-supporting box secured to open the doors of the building and to hold a multitude of activities, like a citizen cafe.

Outside intervention – a porch protecting the pavement from falling stone, taking the evocative shape of a cinema awning and a multi-functional plaza laid out on the sidewalk. Also, parking spaces.

A Made-to-Measure Approach for the Site

While being one of the biggest symbols of the NDG neighbourhood, the Empress Theatre has been near vacant for the past twenty-five years. Today, it is shrouded behind a fence and the building is a symbol of decline; the theatre is facing an uncertain future. Here then is a flexible, fast and affordable proposal to intervene on the building and open it up to the community, without waiting for a large infrastructure project. This is a concerted, participative, step-by-step and structuring approach to build a project that will renew hope and restore a sense of belonging with residents while simultaneously highlighting Sherbrooke Street.

The Empress Theatre in its current state

A Permanent Multipurpose Structure for the Community

For the first part of the project, we propose recuperating the fenced in part of the building by installing a multipurpose sheltered structure that will create a gallery in front of the building and will immediately be a signal of renewal while simultaneously offering a welcome area for the process of consultation and convergence around the Empress much like the BMW Guggenheim Lab. This first part can happen quickly while creating a structure that will last 3 to 5 years. We can envision a structure that would allude to the old marquee, a powerful statement for the future and link to the past heritage. Such as was the case with our Wellington Tower project, we believe that it’s possible to give the building the sense of openness to the neighborhood while waiting for its true restoration project to begin.

For the second part of the project, the inside of the building can be occupied in a transitory manner on a small scale in the entrance hall. A secure self-supporting “box” could open up the building and would allow for a multitude of uses complimenting the porch and the plaza. The symbolic act of crossing the threshold of the entrance of the theatre would most likely be emotionally significant for the community and renew hope for the project.

An Immediate Project to Revive Community Spirit

Rather than wait for the stars to align for the dream project, this immediate project has the potential to grow the Empress in an organic way and end the inactive cycle plaguing the building. The prototype will allow the collection of valuable data on the attractiveness of the site, the people willing to participate, its management, the operation of the space, etc. It’s a step-by-step approach that can be a springboard for the larger project and a clear signal that the Empress is moving forward.

In Summary

  • A porch protecting the sidewalk from the possible fall of stone of the facade, making it possible to replace the fenced space with an appropriate space
  • A layout on the parking spaces to enlarge the plaza of the Empress Porch
  • A project that will bring renewal to the front door of the neighborhood
  • An inner “box” of about 1000 square feet, allowing to create a controlled environment in the building awaiting renovation
  • A plaza and a multifunctional room that can accommodate uses that are conducive to the community: citizen café, exhibition gallery, projection room, public terrace, self-service BBQ
  • A new public space co-managed by local organizations and the Pépinière
  • An immediate impact project reviving the place.
  • An emblem of renewal, for a collective project.
  • A project bringing concrete and hope until the great project.
  • A support for the involvement of the community, an emblematic space of free expression for the artists and organizations of the neighborhood.
  • Put an end to with the image of decline associated with the building.
  • Promote and enhance the character of the Sherbrooke West commercial artery.
  • Strengthen citizens’ sense of ownership of local heritage and their urban environment.
  • Build links between local organizations and la Pépinière.
  • Create a strong precedent of placemaking project in the neighborhood