Montréal bar uses lighting to set the mood

How do you create an atmosphere that’s discreet for a multi-purpose wine bar and nightclub, and did we mention it’s in the heart of Montreal’s Gay Village?

This was the challenge faced by Blanchette Architectes recently designed Minéral, the latest bar project from entrepreneurs and restaurateurs Mathieu Ménard and Steve Grenier which opened on June 27.


The starting point was simple (and just a little bit brilliant): a musical title for each of the three distinct ambiences that succeed each other as the night goes on.

Based on that idea, the design team imagined a space whose atmosphere could change radically from its late-afternoon opening to its late-night peak.

How did they do this? By using light as the raw material which shifts and fills the spaces in the bar. The establishment almost becomes a functional art installation, reminiscent of famous artist James Turrell’s works and his exercises in how light adapts a space. This cohesion between architecture, light and soundscapes were the pillars that set the bar’s tone throughout the day.

“As they emanate from the architecture, light and colours become raw materials that fill the space,” says Patrick Blanchette, the founder of Blanchette Architectes. Working in close collaboration with the client, the architect imagined an evolving scenic design where “sound vibrations translate to waves of colour, staying with the guest from their first after-work cocktail until late at night.”

The “warmly glacial” space plays on the warm-cool duality of colours, materials and light. Soothing light is projected onto wall-mounted canvases, Blanchette notes that “before we reimagined it, the space was particularly dark and poorly lit. We had to work with luminous walls and facing mirrors to let the space breathe. The idea was to take control of the lighting.”

The lighting isn’t the only element at play here; the use of materials like wood, metal, leather and polycarbonate create the backdrop for the dramatic lighting. The bar’s co-owner, Mathieu Ménard, is not only an entrepreneur but a talented cabinetmaker; it was only natural to play to that strength. The bar is framed by his impressive woodwork: an ink-black lacquered wood bar or the striking, Japanese-inspired wooden ceiling structure. These captivating elements are enhanced with light, showcasing the top-quality woodwork. The whole space is an enchanting dance between the human-made and the natural between light and the woodwork and plants growing between the polycarbonate panels complete the scene.

“It’s a place for experiences, where light transforms the space and becomes a material. Minéral appeals to all the senses: we are bathed in light that shifts with the changing sound environment, while we sip organic and natural wines, enjoy cocktails and savour Mediterranean-style shared dishes,” Mr Ménard says.

Images Atelier Welldone via V2com

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