New life for the Dow Planetarium

Centech, ÉTS's technological entrepreneurship centre, is moving

Monday, September 17, 2018

ÉTS is pleased to announce the completion of renovation and refurbishment work for the new quarters of Centech, its centre for technological entrepreneurship, in the former Dow Planetarium, located at 1000, rue Saint-Jacques. At its new location, Centech, one of Canada's biggest business incubators for tech start-ups, will be able to continue its spectacular growth.

So announced ÉTS Director General Pierre Dumouchel today. “We are proud to have met the challenges posed by the rehabilitation of this iconic building. In so doing, we have given the ÉTS campus a new facility that is at once unique and out of the ordinary, and whose capacity to nurture over 130 start-ups annually will make it Montreal's hub for innovation. It is a strategic and dynamic site, conducive to research and co-creation, and perfectly in step with ÉTS's mission of fostering entrepreneurship and industrial innovation,” Dumouchel added.

ÉTS is located in the heart of Montreal's Quartier de l’innovation. Its student body numbers 11,000. The school's activities are now spread over 12 buildings in the vicinity of the Peel / Notre-Dame nexus.

A challenging transformation

In recent years, several teams have been deployed to convert the 1000, rue Saint-Jacques.

Commissioned by the Dow Brewery as a gift to the city and completed in 1966, the planetarium had been designed for a sole use, namely the screening and presentation of original productions aimed at making the fields of astronomy and space exploration more accessible to the general public. Given the building's circular shape (a nod to Saturn and its rings), domed ceiling and somber, subdued interior, the transformation represented a considerable challenge.

Completely rethought, the 21,000 sq.ft. of indoor floor space underwent a metamorphosis. The building now features office space, areas for creative work, and common spaces. New openings allow daylight in. The extensive use of wood and glass throughout imparts to the facility a resolutely distinctive appeal.

As agreed jointly with the Ville de Montréal when ownership of the property was transferred to ÉTS in 2013, the outer envelope has been preserved.

Additional elements will be integrated into the project in coming months, among them the transformation of the former parking lot into an urban park. ÉTS also plans to introduce bike paths and other green spaces in Centech's surroundings and elsewhere on campus.

Centech: an inspiring place where even more stars will shine

Born of an ÉTS initiative, Centech today ranks among the world's most effective business incubators. “Over the years, ÉTS has built up, thanks to Centech, one of the largest hubs in  Canada for tech start-ups. This effervescence will continue with the integration of innovation cells that enable established companies to have a presence at Centech so they can innovate by interfacing with promising tech start-ups, talented students, and experts who are on top of technology trends. This space will thus serve, among other things, to create products with commercial potential, to test and improve those products, and to develop solutions for boosting the productivity of businesses,” explained Centech Director General Richard Chénier.

The successful transformation of the building was entrusted to the firms Menkès Shooner Dagenais Letourneux Architectes, Bouthillette Parizeau, and SDK et associés. Renovation and restoration work was done by Les Entreprises QMD.

The total cost of the project was $11,483,000. The ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur (MEES) du Québec and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, through its Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF), contributed $3,375,000 and $3,275,442, respectively. The Ville de Montréal, for its part, gifted the building to ÉTS.

History of the Dow Planetarium (1966-2011)

Source :

The Dow Planetarium was inaugurated on April 1, 1966 by Jean Drapeau, who was Montréal’s mayor at the time. This event marked the culmination of more than three years of planning and hard work by Pierre Gendron, who was past professor of chemistry and founding Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Ottawa, and an avid amateur astronomer. At the time, Mr. Gendron was also president of the board of directors of Dow Breweries, which later became O’Keefe Breweries (since then absorbed by Molson Breweries). It was through his impetus that Dow Breweries decided to endow Montréal with a world class planetarium, add to the city’s touristic appeal, and to the Montréal Universal and International Exposition of 1967, Expo 67.

Plans for the Planetarium were developed by the architectural firm of David-Barott-Boulva. The innovative design echoed an astronomical theme, evidenced by the exterior of the dome, which resembled Saturn surrounded by its rings. The Planetarium was built at a cost of $1.2 million and located on Chaboillez Square, which once served as a parking area.

The building and projection equipment were completed in February 1966, and the inaugural show, New Skies for a New City, premiered on April 4, 1966.

Between 1966 and 2011, some six million spectators attended over 250 original productions created by the Planetarium to bring the fascinating universe of astronomy and space exploration to the masses. Some 50 lecturers and educators shared presenting duties for more than 58,000 shows in the Star Theatre.

The Dow Planetarium ceased its public activities on October 10, 2011.

richard chenier director of Centech with a group
Richard Chénier, Director of Centech, Julie Morin, Architect, Menkès Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux Architectes, Patrice Catoir, Director, Office of Campus Development, ÉTS, and Pierre Dumouchel.

Une transformation qui posait de nombreux défis
Offert à la Ville de Montréal par la Brasserie Dow en 1966, le planétarium était alors conçu pour un seul usage : la projection et la tenue de productions originales dédiées à la vulgarisation de l’astronomie et de l’exploration spatiale. Présentant une géométrie circulaire (rappelant Saturne et ses anneaux), un dôme et un aménagement sombre et feutré, la transformation représentait un défi de taille.

Les 2 000 mètres carrés intérieurs ont dû être complètement repensés et métamorphosés. Le bâtiment intègre maintenant des bureaux, des aires de création et des espaces communs. De nouvelles percées laissent pénétrer la lumière du jour. L’utilisation massive du bois et du verre confère à l’endroit un caractère résolument distinct.

menkes shooner dagenais letourneux architectes
Menkès Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux Architectes Crédit photo : Stéphane Brügger
centech logo image
Menkès Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux Architectes
Menkès Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux Architectes
photos: archives of montreal
Photos: Archives of Montreal
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