Unexpected edge conditions and juxtapositions characterize not only the location of McGill University’s New Music Building (NMB—until it gets a donor name), but also the complexities of the department itself. The site, a sliver of land at the southeastern corner of the 80-acre campus, lies at an intersection along Sherbrooke Street, a busy commercial strip in downtown Montreal, where the visual clamor of fast-food joints, upscale restaurants, and high-rise chain hotels competes with the rush of automotive traffic and the underground rumble of nearby subway lines. Hardly the obvious spot for a recital hall and acutely sensitive recording studios. But the parcel also happens to border the university’s main music building, the ornate limestone Strathcona Hall. And it was essential that the new structure connect with the old programmatically and spatially.

New Music Building at the Schulich School of Music
Photography © Marc Cramer

Adding to an already complicated mix of site adjacencies, the new, $30 million building, by architects Saucier + Perrotte with Menkes Shooner Dagenais Architectes, had to engage a department drawn from a remarkable range of disciplines. While McGill’s music school, with both undergraduate and graduate programs, takes pride in its traditional conservatory and such humanities-based studies as musicology, its staff and faculty run the gamut from respirologists to physicists, neuroscientists, psychologists, and computer, sound, and electrical engineers—often approaching music from places deep in the realms of science and technology.

Working from the outside in and inside out, Saucier + Perrotte principal Gilles Saucier took cues simultaneously from the campus configuration, the urban context, the local topography, and an evolving set of interior spatial needs.

Saucier recognized that while Sherbrooke Street speaks of a bustling downtown, the quieter, perpendicular Aylmer Street, defining the parcel’s eastern edge, reveals key aspects of the landscape. Like a topographic section cut, Aylmer ascends a hill from the St. Lawrence River and Montreal’s Old City, to the south, continuing along a plateau as it extends through the McGill campus, gradually rising to the small but iconic mountain called Mont Real. Taking inspiration from these real and metaphoric geological conditions, the architect imagined the building as exposed strata that had “eroded” from the once-larger mountain to create the plateau. As built, the 126,750-square-foot rectangular structure, rising eight stories above grade, has a strong horizontality along Aylmer Street, abstractly expressing the fictitious layers of “geological history.” Here, Saucier introduces a deep concrete band, 20 feet up from the ground, intended to evoke a former ground plane, extending south from the mountain. Black and gray zinc cladding, with long, dynamically staggered strip windows, compose the elevation above the concrete band, with glass, brick, limestone, and concrete below it.


Design Architect:
Saucier + Perrotte architectes

Design Principal:
Gilles Saucier
Saucier + Perrotte architectes
7043 Waverly, Montréal, Québec, H2S 3J1
tel: 514-273-1700
Fax: 514-273-3501

Executive Architect:
Menkès Shooner Dagenais

Project Architect:
Anik Shooner
Menkès Shooner Dagenais architectes
1134 rue Ste-Catherine West, 1100
Montréal, Québec, H3B 1H4
Tel: 514-866-7291
Fax: 514-866-8539

Project team:
Menkès Shooner Dagenais / Saucier + Perrotte architectes
Gilles Saucier, Anik Shooner, Caroline Elias, Maxime-Alexis Frappier, Anna Bendix, Anne Sophie Allard, Audrey Archambault, Eda Ascioglu, Patrice Bégin, Catherine Bélanger, Alain Boudrias, Nathalie Cloutier, Jean-Yves Couture, Robert Dequoy, Maxime Gagné, Pierre Gervais, Mana Hemami, Jean-Sebastien Herr, Yvon Lachance, Marc-Antoine Larose, Jean-Louis Léger, Josiane Mac, Andrea MacElwee, Éric Majer, Claudio Nunez, Annie Paradis, Alex Parmentier, Harvens Piou, Isabelle Roy, Annie-Claude Sauvé, Sudhir Suri, Michel Thompson.

Engineers (structural):
Saia Deslauriers Kadanoff
Leconte Brisebois Blais

Engineers (mechanical / electrical):
Pellemon inc. / BPR

Accoustical: ARTEC

General contractor:
EBC Inc.

Gestion de projet:

Marc Cramer
All rights reserved.
4060 Saint-Laurent
Bureau 602C
Montréal, Québec H2W 1Y9
Bureau (514) 845-2857
Mobile (514) 889-2857
Tel France 05 65 62 52 74

Pol Baril
All rights reserved.
Bureau 514-272-9857
Mobile 514-249-5514




Structural system:

Exterior cladding
stone reinforced panels

Glass curtain wall:

Metal for curtain wall:
zinc cladding:
V.M. Zinc

prefabricated concrete panels

Built-up roofing: inverted roof

Glass: Solarban 60

Fire doors: Metaux Tremblay

Hinges: invisible hinges

Interior finishes

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:

Paints and stains:
aluminum panel paint
Duranar P.P.G.

Special surfacing:
Painted Concrete (Chemor Clad)


Toilet accessories:

Interior ambient lighting:
indirect lighting