QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC
Project name: Augustinian Sisters – Permanent exhibition
Location: 77 rue des Remparts, Quebec City QC G1R 3R9
Client: The Fiducie du patrimoine culturel des Augustines
Representative: Catherine Gaumond, director, museum and archives
The goal of the Monastère des Augustines museum project in Quebec City was to incorporate the permanent collection of the Augustines into their new heritage space while preserving the site’s authentic quality and taking care to give breathing space to its simple architecture, with its distinct modesty. Wishing to pursue their mission of caring, the Augustine nuns donated their building and material heritage to the community.
The firm’s mandate, in keeping with the parameters set out by one of the first three religious communities in North America, whose noble mission was to care for and heal, was to create a permanent museum throughout the monastery. This museum’s design temporarily took over the space in a spirit of coming together with the Augustine community and their secular mission.
Committed to preserving the spirit of the site and to highlighting the pure beauty of these historical spaces, the firm created an Ariadne’s thread in the form of a series of sober and luminescent display cases connected up from one room to the next without ever implanting themselves there in an irreversible manner. The small corridor floating between rooms is a subtle setting for a singular collection of the religious community’s objects, some of them everyday and some precious.
The pure beauty of the architecture thus lets itself be sensed more easily and the sinuous path of the floating objects documents a past which still bears this at once altruistic and arduous quality and which bears witness to the community’s sacred mission.
The exhibition design alters the building’s use while respecting the architectural and religious heritage to which it refers. Expressing the lives of the Augustines, the project made it possible to present the nuns’ mission in their own surroundings. Every space, including the foyer, corridors and common spaces, is employed in the exhibition. The project is also unique in the way it appeals to different kinds of visitors.
Seeking to recreate the generous lives of these devoted women, and believing their presence within these walls to be essential to grasping the spirit of the site, we asked a well-known filmmaker to create video capsules featuring the nuns today. These glimpses of their lives, punctuating the exhibition through a discreet and sensitive installation, give meaning to the monastery’s new mission: to provide visitors the opportunity to make living contact with the Augustine heritage
The firm was responsible for the artistic direction, exhibition design, the design of the three-dimensional elements and the coordination and management of the project; that is, with every aspect of the installation of a museum within the rehabilitated Monastère des Augustines de Québec. The goal was to display to advantage the restored building, the project’s primary artifact, and to incorporate into it objects and artworks in order to distinguish the space and recall the lives and wishes of the Augustines.
Every heritage element was a part of the project: the foyer, main corridors and the museum space, including five rooms, the refectory, the vaults and the gallery of relics in the Augustine chapel. The furnishing of the spaces and the displays of objects were inspired by both the site and their original functions, making it possible for the final project to become a true “museum building” with both a heritage and a functional aspect.