Location : Pointe St-CharlesClient : Collectif 7 à NousPreliminary concept : Poddubiuk architecteStructural engineer : EGP Inc.Mechanical / electrical engineer : Martin Roy associésConstruction manager : Groupe TEQ
The collective ‘7 À Nous’ was formed in 2009 by citizens and various cultural and community organizations. The goal was to convert the historic building, Building 7, into a space of gathering and exchange for the community of Pointe-Sainte-Charles. A city in itself, Building 7 will bring together a neighborhood grocery store, a craft brewery, an arcade, an art school, a multipurpose room, a large multi-purpose workshop, as well as over 12,000 sq. Ft. of collaborative spaces for workshops including metal, wood, bicycle, mechanics, painting, offices and a tool-sharing counter. Building 7 is destined to become a driving force in the community and will transform the neighborhood as soon as it opens in the spring of 2018. Inspired by this holistic vision, we embarked on this adventure with the local community in their participatory design process!
Social innovation and a return to re-use
While being a recent project, Building 7 has one of the oldest project numbers in our books as we have been involved from the beginning. It is a project driven by a deeply committed client group intent on transforming their community with a new and accessible social infrastructure. Inspired by a holistic vision that includes social, economic, cultural, political, and ecological objectives, Building 7 is an exciting project that seeks to transform the neighbourhood through innovative and synergistic programming. It is an ambitious renovation and re-purposing of one of the old CN yard storage buildings. The edifice will be developed in phases, creating a challenge to work with a loose-fit approach that would allow programming to evolve and that would permit environmental upgrades over time. All phases are being designed via a participative process that we call co-design which is only possible with a very committed and involved client. Phases 2, 3 and 4 will be centered on developing family and health services, a community food hub and contemporary art studios and workshops.
Building 7 is a historic, abandoned warehouse – originally built between 1924 and 1946 by CN (Canadian National Railway Company) – situated in a brownfield in the Pointe St-Charles neighbourhood of southwest Montreal. Pointe St-Charles is a neighbourhood which generally lacks grocery stores, cultural services, cafes, and gathering spaces. As a community-driven project that combines the arts, health, local food production, and sustainability, Building 7 is aligned with some key municipal policies and objectives, such as fighting poverty and exclusion, promoting social economy initiatives, developing the local food production sector and supporting collective infrastructure.
The Building 7 project has been in the works for over a decade. A local community organization obtained the building for $1 as part of a zoning change agreement to develop 800 new housing units on a site south of the Building 7 brown-field. This organization – named 7 À NOUS – further negotiated an additional $1 million donation in 2012 to begin renovations of the building – a huge victory for the community! A very involved citizen-led process ensued. Mark Poddubiuk (one of our co-founders!) spear-headed the project in 2009 and continued to lead the community effort while a professor at UQAM from 2012 onward. L’OEUF became involved in 2016 when urgent repairs to the abandoned building became necessary as the building had suffered 10 years without any heat or maintenance. In late December 2016, with the patchwork nearly complete, PADIQH funding was granted and the renovation project started.
The Integrated Design Process: the challenge of combining speed and flexibility
The Integrated Design Process is a highly participative approach that allows L’OEUF to adapt to difficult situations such as Building 7. In this case, the project required a very robust risk-response for its tight budget while having a fast-tracked project delivery schedule. From the onset, we decided to involve the main stakeholders, including the clients, the construction manager, and the architects, by beginning with two charrettes. With clear subject points, the charrettes were efficient in capturing pertinent content and a clear direction which in turn propelled the stakeholders’ actions. What came of these charrettes, in short, was a loose-fit approach that encouraged the community to define their current needs while prioritizing their long-term needs, which is a necessity when designing for multiple futures and users.
Environmental Systems, Transferability and Risk
A challenging budget required us to return to the basics – good windows, air-tightness, heat-recovery on ventilation air, storm-water capture, clear spatial typology, and detailing that permits sustainable evolution without expensive re-work. Like many of our clients, this one required us to remove risk from their project as most financial sensitive clients cannot suffer risk or be exposed to capital cost overruns, which creates delays or cancellations. Aside from getting the basics right, this is perhaps the most transferable sustainability feature of the project.