STUDENT Evelyne St-Jacques, Université de Montréal
The Poudrette quarry in Mont Saint-Hilaire has been in operation for more than 40 years, extracting minerals used in the manufacture of concrete. The mountain has been carved away, giving way to a 100-metre-high cliff. Its straight cut exposes the rocky composition of the mountains, providing stark visual contrast between the industrial nature of the mining site and the wooded, vegetated state of the rest of the mountain. The rocky landscape conveys the crude roughess and solid mass of the mountain, while vegetation thrives in an everchanging seasonal dynamic.
This landscape, scarred by the Quebec mining industry, presents a distinct architectural challenge through its sheer monumentality and arid nature. But, at the same time, it is a very inspiring place. The constraints and appearance of the site demand a sensitive and poetic exploration that engages reflection on the paradoxical beauty of the industrial landscape. The aim is to instill a certain human presence to the site, acknowledging traces of its industrial past.
The quarry in Mont Saint-Hilaire is an ideal site for the construction of a centre for rehabilitation, respite and relaxation. A therapy centre comprised of fragmented human-scaled buildings forms part of an architectural journey, amplifying its relationship with the landscape. The therapeutic frame avoids isolation and exclusion by offering a place of rest and rejuvenation on a site that is open, mixed and multifunctional. The proposed central pavilion is a visitor information centre focused on the history of the quarry, while the surrounding pavilions are intended as places of respite for visitors. The materiality of the structures will emphasize tactility, stimulating the senses and encouraging an awareness and perception of the surrounding environment. Ultimately, the project’s goal is the rehabilitation of a site ravaged by industry to promote sustainable development through the poetic vehicle of architecture.
EG: A sensitive proposal that sits firmly on the ground of this desolate landscape in a timeless way.
MG: One of the most seductive of all the projects we saw. It has a Canadian spirit about it that’s just lovely. It would be amazing to see something like this built.
TS: The representation of this student project is very strong. It articulates conceptual clarity and an understanding of how this idea could be resolved as a real piece of architecture.