The Second Life of a Bauhaus Master’s Gas Station – CityLab
In its original life as a gas station, the brick-and-glass building equipped with garage doors was dedicated to car maintenance. The glass room housed a small store, bathrooms, and an office. A car wash was installed in 1996. The building operated as a neighborhood service station until its closure in 2008, at which point it badly needed repairs.
Montreal architect Éric Gauthier and his firm FABG—which more recently designed the seemingly Bauhaus-inspired paddocks at Montreal’s F1 racetrack—were selected to ease the gas station into its new life as La Station, an intergenerational community center.
Gauthier, who cites Mies as an important influence in his own work, says his firm was chosen to renovate the gas station around the same time as its notably Miesian community center in a Montreal suburb was publicly unveiled. “[Mies] had an idea of beauty which was linked to the classical tradition, and values that are deeply rooted in our culture,” says Gauthier. “Some thought he was only a technician, which he was not at all. He was an idealistic person who tried to communicate an idea of beauty.”
To renovate an original Mies, however, was an intimidating prospect. Gauthier didn’t want to fetishize or replicate Mies, but also didn’t want to merely restore the building. “I thought, the right thing to do was to be more Mies than Mies,” Gauthier says. He embraced Mies’s concept of buildings as backgrounds for living, and envisioned stripping the station of all of its non-essential features.
Gauthier’s idea was met with some consternation from heritage-minded people, who believed the building should retain the spirit of its main purpose. “So, we decided to put our energy on one thing: The pumps. The gas pumps were not there anymore. They were the emblem, the clue that it was a gas station. So we recreated boxes there that are air intakes and outtakes for the buildings,” Gauthier says.
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