Historic Hockey Arena Restored And Expanded With Massive Wood Roof

FABG architects once again take a banal building type and make it special.

Verdun Auditorium

Steve Montpetit via V2com

It is a Treehugger spring tradition, usually around Swedish Waffle Day, to celebrate waffle slabs, an ingenious construction technology that delivers very long spans with less concrete. Like everything in this pandemic year, we are late, not having had any tasty waffle slabs to show. But now Canada's FABG architects come to the rescue with its renovation of the Verdun Auditorium in Montréal, Quebec, which includes a wondrous wooden waffle that dominates the public areas.

wood roof

Steve Montpetit via V2com

The original Verdun Auditorium is a lovely Art Deco-ish building that opened in 1939 and was home to some of the world's most famous hockey players, including Maurice Richard. It also was a concert venue — Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Bob Dylan have played there — and had a big political history, as it was the venue for the two referenda on Quebec independence. As the architects note, "The auditorium left an indelible mark on the citizens who frequented this emblematic place during their youth."

Site Plan

FABG Architects

Yet the original mandate given to the architects was to tear it down and replace it, keeping the newer hockey arena next door. As so often happens with old buildings, especially ones that get wrapped up in metal siding, the emotional attachment people have to them is discounted. FABG proposed a better idea:

"Rather than destroy the historic landmark, FABG architects proposed the enhancement and restoration of the auditorium and the demolition & reconstruction of the Denis-Savard arena by arranging between the two a foyer from which it is possible to observe the two rinks from the city towards the river along the axis of a new urban beach." 
detail of slab

Steve Montpetit via V2com

It should be noted the waffle-like ceiling is not actually a waffle slab, but as can be seen in this close-up, is a CLT slab roof supported by deep beams running across the width of the lobby, with filler pieces giving it the waffle look.

The architects describe it:

"The public spaces feature a cross-laminated timber roof chosen as much for its contribution to carbon sequestration as for its contribution to the definition of a simple and robust architectural language for these spaces. Particular care has been taken to restore and maintain the character of the interior spaces of the auditorium. This was accomplished by restoration of the original masonry facade and of the wooden benches, which are complemented by the mixed structure (wood and steel) of the roof."
Restored entrance

Steve Montpetit via V2com

The project also won a heritage award from the Quebec Order of Architects, who noted:

"The jury praised the architects' effort to conserve and enhance the existing Art Deco style arena, inaugurated in 1939. While the initial order called for the demolition of the building, the design team convinced the client of its heritage value and the interest of rehabilitating it."
Auditorium interior

Steve Montpetit via V2com

The existing brick and steel building not only held a lot of memories but also a lot of embodied carbon that would have been emitted building its replacement. It's the reason we say the greenest building is the one already standing, and why organizations like Architects Declare seek to "upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon-efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice."

Canopy over new building

Steve Montpetit via V2com

FABG architects have a talent for taking the programs for what are usually banal buildings and making them special: The firm was previously featured on Treehugger for making an emergency diesel generator facility into a glass monument. FABG architects have done it again with the Verdun Auditorium, saving both the building and its memories.