Montreal Hopes a Soaring New Boardwalk Will Activate the St. Lawrence River

Architecture International
RFA Archpaper 5

(Courtesy Ruccolo + Faubert Architectes)

The Plage de l’Est, a heretofore unoccupied site along the shores of the St. Lawrence River will now be recast as a recreational gathering area for Montreal residents.  The overhaul of the vacant area has been mooted since 2010, but in 2013 the city put out a call for ideas for the project. Ultimately the submission from Ruccolo + Faubert Architectes & Ni conception architecture de paysage emerged from a field of 5 finalists in a recent decision.

RFA Archpaper 3

(Courtesy Ruccolo + Faubert Architectes)

The winning proposal is anchored by a large boardwalk that emerges from the river and extends into the surrounding terrain. In keeping with the competition brief, the architectural additions to the vacant site are harmoniously integrated into the surrounding landscape. The multilevel design accommodates pedestrian traffic, creates enclosed rooms, and offers spaces for aquatic recreation.

The walkway juts out over the water, thus creating an observation point that allows for uninterrupted views of the St. Lawrence. This overhang also serves to provide shelter for boating and swimming equipment stored below. The proposal calls for fairly minimal interventions to the remainder of the over 2,000-square-foot project site.

A building housed within the boardwalk looks out onto a shallow pool that is fed by a constant stream and filled by an arrangement of sculpted cubes. During the winter months it will double as an ice skating rink. Larger cubes are scattered elsewhere along the shoreline to cordon off another area designated for aquatic play.

Large fields round out the back end of the site and are currently equipped for badminton and volleyball, though their roles are meant to shift as new needs arise. The structure is to be realized in raw, environmentally-friendly materials, bestowing a naturalism to the design heightened by extensive planting of shrubbery and larger greenery.

RFA ARchpaper 6

(Courtesy Ruccolo + Faubert Architectes)

The project comes with a $3 million budget, and construction is scheduled to commence later this year. Officials are eying a 2016 completion date. The stretch of the St. Lawrence where the new boardwalk will be located in Rivière-des-Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles Borough, a suburb on the eastern end of the Island of Montreal. The Plage de l’Est design is part of Entente Montreal, a larger initiative currently afoot in the city meant to reinforce Montreal’s 2006 designation as a UNESCO City of Design.

Borough mayor Manon Gauthier hailed the RFA design as “a new, shared natural treasure worthy of our status as a UNESCO City of Design.” Their submission beat out proposals from fellow Québécois firms Architecture Microclimat, Ateleier Barda & Nip Paysage, Groupe Rousseau Lefebvre, and The Commons. Each plan was presented to a public audience this past December with RFA’s victory announced January 20.

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