Case study: Palais des congres Wayfinding Masterplan

The Palais des congrès de Montréal (“Palais” for short), is a convention and exhibition center in Montreal’s borough of Ville-Marie. Over the past 25 years, it has welcomed more than 12.6 million visitors and 4 340 events. In the late 1990s, with a 240 million dollars investment from the Quebec government, the Palais has undergone an extensive expansion and the existing wayfinding signage was not reflecting the new architectural environment. Signature design communication was mandated to review and renew the wayfinding signage in order to facilitate the flow of visitors and communicate clear messages, directional information and destinations.

By doubling its size, the Palais was found with two vertical axes and distinctive zones, each including a public transit terminal, parking facilities, cloakroom and lobby. This expansion has led to major changes in operations and visitor flow within the building. New flow diagrams were established in accordance to this new reality marking visitor routes and determining decision points and destinations.

Throughout the mandate, SDC’s design team worked closely with the Palais’ staff members, meeting the various administrative groups for their comments and needs. The preliminary study demonstrated a lack of consistency in the sequence of messages addressed to visitors. The terminology used was not significant to the users and offered no reference to the site. An analysis of the projected circulation flow allowed targeting problem areas and needs for different categories of visitors. It identified two main axes of vertical movement to direct visitors to the upper levels intended for activities and or events.

The major change in the new signage program is the introduction of a new level of information in the sequence provided to visitors. Each of the two vertical axes was given a new and strong identity creating distinctive markers. In addition to this, the new suggested terminology refers to the urban periphery of the Palais, while each identity is being reinforced by the use of a specific color.

Since the Palais’ architectural design is based on transparency and color, the choice of coloration was done in collaboration with the building’s architects to ensure smooth and meaningful integration to the built environment. Both the terminology and coloring are repeated on identifying elements to help visitors locate themselves and their target location.

Following the observation of existing conditions, the routing strategy and communication to visitors through signage elements were revised and updated. One of the criteria for success of the new wayfinding signage program is consistency between the various communication methods used to inform the visitor. The interaction between static and dynamic signage is crucial to enable the association to the event to a specific location of the Palais.

SDC managed the extensive project over the five years leading to its completion. The team completed on site surveys, flow analysis, design and development of the signage elements, tender documents, and production and installation supervision.

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