Shakespeare famously wrote that “All the world’s a stage” — yet theatrical stages rarely open up to the world around them. Instead, they tend to focus attention purely on the productions at hand, blocking out any signs of an audience’s broader surroundings. After all, part of the magic of live theatre is being transported somewhere else.

The exception is outdoor venues, which have the unique mission of situating a play’s fictional setting within a larger landscape. In this sense, Lemay’s recent renovation of Montreal‘s Théâtre de Verdure is a grand success, gracefully framing both centre stage and the trees beyond.

The entrance gate to La Fontaine Park's Theatre de Verdure pavilion designed by Lemay.

First inaugurated in 1956, the open-air theatre (built on a small island within Montreal’s La Fontaine Park) grew into a popular destination for summertime Shakespeare performances before falling into disrepair and shuttering in 2014. Plans for a revitalization started to materialize a few years later, with the project awarded to the Montreal office of global design firm Lemay.

A side view of La Fontaine Park's Théâtre de Verdure theatre pavilion designed by Lemay.
A view of La Fontaine Park's Theatre de Verdure pavilion designed by Lemay from across the pond, framed by lush trees.

The new pavilion was tasked with improving upon its predecessor in a number of key ways, swapping out the original’s clutter of industrial steel for a more sophisticated setup better suited to modern AV needs. The transformation initiative also sought to make the venue (previously open to the public only during summer performances) accessible at all times, year round.

A person walks past the amphitheatre wood seating in front of La Fontaine Park's boxy Theatre de Verdure pavilion designed by Lemay.

Lemay’s intervention is a sculptural box that recalls the accordion-like midsection of a folding camera, with staggered rectangular frames that grow tighter as they approach the back of the stage. When not hosting performances, the back of the structure is left wide open — forming a clear aperture through which to observe the park. The project’s use of native Douglas fir creates another connection between building and landscape.

An aerial view of La Fontaine Park's boxy Theatre de Verdure pavilion designed by Lemay, built on an island in the middle of a large pond.

Across the water from the stage, the reconstructed amphitheatre is bordered by a newly extended pedestrian path. As visitors move through the park, they reach other perspectives on the theatre. From the side, it presents as a series of layered slats, whereas when viewed from across the park’s pond, it becomes a more angular, gem-like form.

Looking across the pond in La Fontaine Park to Theatre de Verdure, a pavilion designed by Lemay.

While the venue can accommodate crowds of up to 2,500 on performance nights, what is perhaps most impressive is the way that it commands an audience even when no play is being staged. By doubling as a kind of sculpture, the theatre pavilion turns the greenspace around it into its own main character.

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