A design competition explores potential uses for reclaimed materials from the roof of Montreal’s Olympic Stadium


Montreal’s controversial Olympic Stadium has a complex history marked by fires, debt, and labor strikes. Total construction costs throughout the stadium’s history are estimated at $4.1 billion. Amid ongoing safety concerns, the Quebec government plans to spend another $870 million to replace the stadium’s roof. This costly renovation plan is coupled with a design competition that aims to reuse, recycle and recover materials from the roof.

In anticipation of the 1976 Olympics hosted in Montreal, French architect Roger Taillibert helmed the groundbreaking design: a cantilevered tower supporting a retractable roof. With workers’ strikes during construction the tower was not ready in time for the games; instead the building’s most prominent features were completed over ten years later, in 1987.

The roof was only opened 88 times before it was permanently closed and replaced by a fixed fiberglass membrane roof in 1998. The current roof now has 20,000 tears, and the stadium can only open when weather conditions are favorable—too much snow could make the roof collapse. To make matters worse, a fire this March at the stadium now requires extensive decontamination work.

According to Montreal’s tourism minister Caroline Proulx, demolition of the stadium would cost $2 billion and is not practical; the structure is attached to two subway stations and businesses lease office space in the stadium’s tower. 

aerial view of the Montreal Olympic Stadium roof
The roof of the Olympic Stadium is as emblematic of the structure as its slanted tower. (Jiaqian AirplaneFan/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0)

Proulx instead envisions a major rehaul of the stadium that involves the construction of a new roof. The renovation would allow the stadium to remain open year-round and bring in almost triple the revenue.

Alongside the renovation plan, the Montréal Olympic Park is also moving forward with an international design competition to envision new uses for materials salvaged from the demolished roof. The competition, which ran through June 11, was open to design and architecture professionals, as well as students. 

Submissions were tasked with incorporating three of the roof’s components: the cable group, the membrane group, and the connectors group. 

Prizes were awarded in a professional classification and student classification per categories: design; innovation, processes and environmental impact; product development award.

The four professional winners have each received $15,000 prizes, while student winners were each awarded $5,000 prizes.

The public is able to vote until July 26 and winners will be announced at the beginning of August. A nine-person jury, featuring Michel Labrecque, the president and CEO of the Olympic Park, along with a group of architects and designers, will make the final decision.

The nine design proposals are listed below with more information available online.

Module-V

Project team: Nyta—Lingzhe Lu and Kun Chen (Virginia, United States)

Prize: Winner in the professional category—product development award 

walkways with cables
Module-V (Courtesy Réemploi de la Toiture Olympique)

Module-V reimagines structural components of the roof to create sustainable, community-oriented facilities along Montreal’s waterways. The proposed modular structure improves urban diversity and can adjust to different configurations, among these, elevated pedestrian promenades, cycling and walking paths, and micro forests, or “natural oases.”

Les Toits

Project team: STGM Architecture—Stephan Langevin, Pascale Bornais-Lamothe, Frédérique Trottier, Étienne Vigneau, Carlos Ospina, Alex Langevin and Marie-Pier Bazinet (Quebec, Canada)

Prize: Winner in the professional category—design prize

roof materials reused in a garden
Les Toits (Courtesy Réemploi de la Toiture Olympique)

Les Toits proposes a “multitude of roofs” that would be cut and unrolled across the city to provide shade and gathering space. The project’s main focus would be a wasteland area to the east of Olympic Park. The roofs would extend over a built ecosystem of greenery and ponds. 

Re_Source

Project team: NIPPAYSAGE and PXP—Michel Langevin, Mélanie Mignault, Claude Cournoyer, Renée Chamberland, Vincent Clarizio, Margot Greenbaum, Sacha Vasseur, Vincent Proulx, Claudia Fabbricatore and Thomas Nadeau (Quebec, Canada)

Prize: Winner in the professional category—innovation, processes and environmental impact

roof materials used to renovate existing industrial building in a verdant park-like setting
Re_Source (Courtesy Réemploi de la Toiture Olympique)

Re_Source suggests transforming an existing industrial building to include a new multiuse hall, greenhouse and observation tower using components from the old roof. The building would be open to the community, offering a broad, multifaceted range of applications. 

Float

Project team: Populous—Alex Ogata, Khurtsbileg Erdenetsogt, Samantha Garza, Wendy Chen and Yuhan (Missouri, United States)

Prize: Winner in the professional category—design prize

Montreal Olympic stadium roof materials as venues out on the water
Float (Courtesy Réemploi de la Toiture Olympique)

Float would create an artificial archipelago, complete with a pool, just off Île Sainte-Hélène on the St. Lawrence River. Four floating islands—connected by a jetty—would establish a new recreational space for Montrealers. Float designers described their project as renewing a “sense of celebration, unity and hope” from the 1976 Olympic Games. 

Ionosphere

Project team: Benedict Huber, Doruk Ozturk, Diego Munoz and Emile Meunier (Quebec, Canada)

Prize: Winner in the student category—innovation, process and environmental impact

bus shelters
Ionosphere (Courtesy Réemploi de la Toiture Olympique)

The environmentally minded Ionosphere project plans to reuse components of the roof to create “safe climate zones” across the city’s network of bus shelters. The materials would be transformed into electrostatic precipitators that collect harmful particles from the air. Ionosphere sets out to protect citizens of Montreal from air pollution—an increasingly timely solution due to Canada’s frequent wildfires. 

Flotte-de-lis

Project team: Massimo Montanari, Mehakpreet Bhutta, Duha Ismail, Laila Kirton and Nava Mahouri Monfared (Ontario, Canada)

Prize: Winner in the student category—design prize 

canopies with fountains and gardens
Flotte-de-lis (Courtesy Réemploi de la Toiture Olympique)

Flotte-de-lis proposes the construction of social spaces with a variety of elements: petal-like, expansive shade covers, urban agriculture plots, benches with panoramic views of Olympic park. The modularity of the project allows it to be installed in various locations.

Estade

Project team: JCS—Julien Ouellette, Caterina Tomassini and Simon Birtz (Quebec, Canada)

Prize: Winner in the Student Category—product development award

canopy structure with furniture underneath
Estade. (Courtesy Réemploi de la Toiture Olympique)

Estade would produce a series of flexible temporary event structures that could be reconfigured to various locations. The project offers two different sizes of modules that could be dismantled, deflated, and reassembled. Each module can be adapted in a multitude of arrangements. 

Echo Olympic

Project team: Audrey Thomas Joyal, Sarah Boisvert and Hawa Timbely (Quebec, Canada)

Prize: Winner in the student category—design prize

food stands
Echo Olympic (Courtesy Réemploi de la Toiture Olympique)

Echo Olympic suggests a group of shade structures inspired by the colors of the Olympic rings. The modules can be fixed together in a circular shape also reminiscent of the rings. The project is described as establishing a “symbolic association between Olympic heritage and the city’s challenges.”

Les Jardines du Renouveau

Project team: Samuel Fournier and Libéro Rutilo (Quebec, Canada)

Prize: Mention in the professional category for the complete reuse of materials

bright furniture and Montreal Olympic stadium roof materials reused as canopies
Les Jardines du Renouveau (Courtesy Réemploi de la Toiture Olympique)

Les Jardins du Renouveau would reimagine the roof’s materials into urban furniture marked by bright colors and bold geometry. Seats, decorative sculptures, and shade overhangs would be built into the urban environment. Like many of the projects, the various parts could be disassembled and built in different locations. 





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