La Maison Simons is a mainstay of the Quebec apparel marketplace. The retailer has 8 stores in Quebec and 1 in Edmonton, AB, but it was looking to create an iconic building for its new location at the Galeries d'Anjou Mall in Montreal's east end. The architect, Lemay Michaud, came up with a design that literally lights up the mall and acts as a beacon to draw in patrons.
The design employs a precast concrete facade covered in recesses threaded with fiber-optic lights that twinkle day and night.
"We wanted to create a minimalist building with a unique texture," says Philippe Blais, architect with Lemay Michaud. "We achieved just that with the sleek white concrete surfaces and the impact of the fiber-optics. Everybody is talking about the glittering facade."
The look was achieved using precast concrete panels featuring up to 2350 recesses where the fiber-optics are displayed. "The plasticity of the concrete allowed us to achieve the dotted texture with the variable depths and diameters we wanted while keeping this as a simple white volume," Blais says. "It also helped us for the integration of the fiber-optic lighting in the panels."
In total, 138 white double-wythe insulated panels were used, covering 27,000 ft 2 (2500 m 2 ) of the facade. The dotted texture is in various sizes and depths, and each little change in the recess depths or alignment required a new mold, explains Guy Tremblay, technical director with BPDL, the precaster for the project. "The challenge was to keep the project both economical and interesting for the client in the pursuit of his original design."
To meet those goals, BPDL created multiple molds with recesses in various shapes and patterns, all of which needed to be sloped to accommodate incoming rain and other elements. Fiber-optics were woven into the panels, and crews glued colored disks to the recesses from the outside to complete the building's eye-catching effect.
The decision to use precast concrete for the facade also saved time and cost and improved durability, which were also appealing to the project owner. "We wanted to cut down the budget and the schedule for the exterior wall construction, which is why we chose precast insulated panels," Blais says.
Installation of all 138 panels, which totaled 27,000 ft 2 (2500 m 2 ) took only four weeks to complete, and the insulated precast concrete panels eliminated the need for typical exterior walls with insulation, air-vapor barriers, and other additional layers. "That is normally done on-site prior to the exterior cladding installation, which is more expansive and takes more time than work done at a plant," he says. "By using precast cladding, the only work that was done on-site was the precast panel installation."