Designed a year before his death in 1968, Mies van der Rohe’s Esso station on l’Île des Sœurs in Montreal has been vacant and shuttered since 2008. The station, intended to serve nearby apartment blocks also designed by Mies, was built during the early urbanization of the island and closed when another station opened closer to the island’s main thoroughfare. Having been declared a historic monument in 2009, the community eventually decided to restore the structure and convert it to an intergenerational community center.
The renovation, designed by Éric Gauthier of Montreal-based Les Architectes FABG, maintains the structure’s layout and keeps original features intact, including the structure’s brickwork and beams. A cantilevered steel roof bridges two glass pavilions, one originally housing a store and the other a rest area. In between, where gas pumps and an attendant’s booth once stood, intake/outtake vents for new geothermal energy wells mimic the original pumps while the booth in the center will house displays on Mies’ and the station’s history. Gauthier also maintained the original strips of fluorescent lighting that stretch across the underside of the roof from one pavilion to the other; the effect is striking, unifying the space as they run through the glass curtain walls.