La Presse’s printing plant on St. Antoine Street has always held a special place in the hearts of Montrealers. It would stir the imagination of everyone who caught a glimpse of the immense printing presses running full tilt at night, an infinite ribbon of paper speeding through the machines.
Today, the media world is facing unprecedented changes, and La Presse, one of the biggest French newspapers in North America, is no exception. In order to assert its major shift to digital, La Presse hired the architects to reinvent this space, which had been all but abandoned since 2007. At one time strongly linked to the street, it seemed incumbent that the printing plant be used for new functions, in order for the public to continue to have access to the heart of the newspaper’s production. The large inclined bay windows, which used to highlight the newspaper’s printing process, today serve as windows onto the expertise and talent of La Presse’s journalists and production teams.
The first major step was to reappropriate and transform the printing plant into a modern, bright newsroom. The initial volume was made up of an open space measuring 53 metres by 27.5 metres, with a height of over 12 metres. To the west of this imposing space is a series of four levels, each 540 square metres in size. The entire space would provide a new working environment for the newspaper’s IT, writing and editorial departments. The program given to the architects involved installing 300 open concept workstations, 20 enclosed offices and more than 330 square metres of common areas, including 8 conference rooms.
The project aimed to create an inspiring workspace where multiple separated levels would enable La Presse’s 315 employees to work together with maximum efficiency; a flexible environment where all modern technological tools would be available to them. Three mezzanines were therefore set up in the former printing plant to give users a variety of different-size spaces to work in, and to free up a vast vertical space that would bathe the room in natural light. What’s more, these mezzanines are offset from one another to create double-height spaces at each end. Work on the building envelope, the addition and extension of windows as well as the use of glass and light finishes contribute to the abundant light in the individual and collective work areas.
The result is a poignant, well-thought-out design, and the presence of the original building’s spirit permeates the newsroom. The building’s industrial past remains discernible by the power of the concrete structure and the monumental scale of the office, as well as by the excited buzz created by the many people who work day and night to produce La Presse.
Nominated for the Prix del’Ordre des architectes du Québec, Interior Design category, 2015 Winner Grands Prix du design, Office Larger than 20,000 Square Feet category (ex aequo), 2016