The concept for the siting and construction of the new visitor centre for Seigneurie-des-Aulnaies, a registered Quebec cultural heritage site, is grounded in the characteristic elements of the surrounding landscape: the river, bridges, forest and stone buildings. The architects opted for a Land Art approach, focusing on natural settings and materials. The aim was to make the new building as discreet as possible and showcase the site’s most interesting landscape and heritage features. The resulting pavilion takes advantage of the site’s slope: the building “melts” into it, minimizing its visual impact on the site and allowing for universal accessibility. Stone is the project’s dominant source of inspiration. It is found on the site in every form: as a retaining wall, piled on the riverbank, and hewn for use on the mill’s exterior. This natural raw material appears in the new pavilion as a gabion wall. Meanwhile, the building’s green roof suggests an exposed stratum of the underlying ground and emphasizes the idea of landscape-focused architecture by blurring all references to buildings. The interior spaces are organized longitudinally, following the roofline.
As the gateway to the historic Seigneurie site, the new pavilion is used for welcoming visitors and controlling site access, while giving visitors an overview of different ways to explore the site. The first volume, in wood and stone, is used for services, while the second volume, finished in glass, opens on the landscape and provides a “frame” for looking at the mill and its activities. The gap between the two volumes provides a view of the river side of the landscape. On the street side, the gabion wall guides pedestrians toward the entrance, characterized by a picture window and a thin awning attached to the building. The awning provides shelter for guided activities or contemplation; it is also designed to steer the visitor toward the wooden walkway leading to the manor house.
The project, executed on a very tight budget, reflects a contemporary approach to integrating a new structure into a sensitive location, where the top priorities were to highlight historic architecture and landscape heritage. By minimizing the environmental and visual impact of the pavilion, the architects showed a high degree of sensitivity to the rich natural setting. In addition to the challenge of integration with the surroundings, there was also a need to address the social acceptability of the project – a challenge successfully met thanks to an actively involved client open to new ideas and passionate about the Seigneurie des Aulnaies.
(c) photo : Stéphane Groleau
Project: Pavillon d’accueil de la Seigneurie des Aulnaies
Location: Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies (Québec)
Client: Corporation touristique de la Seigneurie des Aulnaies, M. Réal Perron, président,
Ms. Dominique Garon, General manager
Project architect: Anne Carrier architecture (AC/ a)
Designers: Anne Carrier lead architect, Robert Boily B.arch./ B.sc.a., Patricia Pronovost architect
Structural and civil engineers: Douglas Consultants inc.
Mechanical engineer (electrical): Groupe Conseil Méconair Ltée
General contractor: Construction Citadelle inc.
Area: 150 m2
Budget: 0.6 M$
Project completion: 2015
About Anne Carrier architecture (AC /a)
The winner of the prestigious Governor General’s Award for architecture in 2016, the Anne Carrier architectural firm is recognized for the quality of its work and its excellent service, as well as for its ability to solve complex problems with a simple, effective and sustainable approach. The firm has earned more than 35 awards and distinctions during its 25-year history, in recognition of its mastery of building design and technology, as well as its ability to work within budgets and to exceed client expectations. Since 1992, the firm has been strongly committed to its mission of contributing to the improvement of living spaces by focusing on the creativity, quality and durability of its architectural creations. By offering well thought out, gimmick-free solutions in harmony with surrounding natural, cultural and urban landscapes, the firm seeks to contribute to the success of a distinct Québécois architecture that will be an integral part of tomorrow’s heritage. The firm’s conceptual, architectural, aesthetic and technical choices converge on the creation of spaces where “natural light and transparency” reign. The approach is grounded in clear and elegant tectonic expression and fine detail work. Through its search for a perfect balance between complex components and elegant results, the team creates sensitive and stimulating spaces with emotional depth and historical resonance.