Description of project
In collaboration with Atelier Big City, Urban Soland and Planex.
The development of western Pierrefonds offers a rare opportunity of creating an environment of urban life in the last of large unexploited sites on the island of Montreal, very close to one of the rare natural environments – a zone linking lake Saint-Louis to lake des Deux Montagnes and including the “rivière à l’Orme” ecoterritory of the ecoforester, the Cap-Saint-Jacques nature park, the farm park De-la-Roche grove and Angell grove. If such an opportunity initially causes enthusiasm, the exercise must nevertheless be done with caution and a great sensitivity as to limit the impact on the natural territory.
Taking in account the complexity of such a project, for the charrette organized by the City of Montreal we gathered a multidisciplinary team that have assertive and complementary experiences in sustainable urban design (L’OEUF), in innovating urban architecture (Atelier Big City), in natural sites landscaping (Planex Consultants), in urban landscaping (Peter Soland), in civil engineering (Vinci Consultants) and in bioclimatic engineering (Martin Roy). We adopted an intense integrated design approach for the duration of the charrette. An approach as such encourages the immediate and spontaneous participation of experts at the beginning of process, including the development and formatting of innovative, creative and realistic concepts. Since the process of design during the charrette envisaged the participation of promoters, our proposals answer a reflection on real-estate development realities.
The three “neighbourhood units” are connected by the pedestrian green loop and meet at the Pierrefonds boulevard and “common axis” cross – a municipal center which consists of a public space, community facilities (school, library, community center) and the shuttle bus stops that serve the Beaconsfield train station and express buses that lead to a metro station.
At the core of our team’s concerns was the design of an urban development appeared supporting and even reinforcing the ecological conservation of the Anse-à-l’Orme écoterritory. From a philosophical point of view, the intervention’s cornerstone is to establish an attitude through which natural and physical qualities are regarded as the structuring properties of a new community and around which a single image must be forged. It then becomes imperative to identify certain latent structures of the landscape to define the guidelines of an overall plan sensitive to the site’s ecological characteristics. The real-estate development must be seen as a complement to ecological conservation rather than an obstacle to it. At first sight, we identified certain structuring elements – the existing agricultural grid, the catchment area, the solar orientation as well as the network of natural environments and wetlands. The imposition of the agricultural grid is a reminder of the site’s historical vocation and its development. In addition, the adaptation of the existing drainage ditches could be used to establish a network of natural and gravitating rain drainage allowing the infiltration of rainwater, thus feeding the wetlands and the two existing streams and respecting the catchment area. Our analysis of the catchment area also led us to locate the prolongation of the Pierrefonds boulevard directly on the peak, the highest axis of the site – literally the new district’s “high street” dividing the site roughly in two. This layout supports a natural drainage, without major modification of the site’s topography.
We proposed a simple and flexible street grid to adapt to the desired typological diversity. The road network is hierarchical and consists of a new parkway under the influence of the eventual 440 highway, of the prolongation of Pierrefonds boulevard towards the west end ending in a loop at the new municipal center, of the prolongation of Antoine-Falcon boulevard along the l’Anse-à-l’Orme grove ending on Gouin boulevard, collector streets roughly oriented North-South along the ditches and residential streets roughly oriented East-West. The street as a socialization medium – at commercial boulevard scale as well as at residential street scale.
Energy and orientation
It should be noted that in accordance to the LEED-ND program, one recommends a construction prevalence on an East-West axis with a maximum variation of ± 15° towards east and west. According to our team’s engineer, Martin Roy, a prevalent south-eastern 12° orientation should ensure a better solar gain. According to his calculations, this orientation makes it possible to reduce the energy consumption used for heating from 5 to 15%, in comparison to a perpendicular orientation to the agricultural grid – an economy which does not require any investments if not that to be conscious of the sun. This orientation corresponds to the planning suggested for the Pierrefonds boulevard and dictates the principal orientation for the residential streets. The site is favourable to the use of geothermy because of the water table’s low depth and the high clay content soil, particularly if there is an association with the use of thermal solar panel.
Greening the grid
The site is characterized by agricultural fields that are punctuated with swamps and streams, surrounded by wooded areas such as the Cape-Saint-Jacques and l’Anse-à-l’Orme. In order to preserve these natural environments in the new district’s daily life, we proposed the creation of a “common axis” which crosses the site from north to south – a municipal axis between l’Anse-à-l’Orme and Cape-Saint-Jacques connecting the stream to the south with the swamps to the north and integrating the existing schoolyard and cemetery on the Gouin boulevard. Thereafter, this axis is integrated in a loop which is formed by the edges of the stream and the wetlands and a second North-South axis along a ditch which has the potential to connect l’Anse-à-l’Orme to the edge of the des Prairies river. This green loop which makes it possible to consolidate the site’s natural environments and to offer a footpath along the project’s future residences becomes the new public land, both municipal and natural.
While arriving from highway 40 towards the “parkway”, a main boulevard abundantly planted contrasting with the typical nearby “strips” present in other districts, the new residential area is isolated from circulation by an alignment of commercial buildings – incubating lofts on pile ensuring a permeability degree and conservation of the agricultural and wooded landscape. The neighbourhood is mainly accessed by the prolongation of Pierrefonds boulevard through the site.
We conceived the site plan by taking in account three distinctive “neighbourhood units” according to their particular landscapes – the “stream” for the sector south of the Pierrefonds boulevard, the “swamp” for the northern sector and the “meadow” for the sector west of the municipal axis and prolonged towards Cape-Saint-Jacques. Each neighbourhood unit represents an area on a walkable scale – from 1500 to 2000 units inside a 400 to 500 meters radius. The neighbourhood units can thus be used for the project’s phase development and the establishment of particular identities of individual residential projects.
For example, the “meadow” proposes a lower density development model, partly made up of “farmhouses”, an identity inspired by the particular context of the Gouin boulevard south of Cape-Saint-Jacques as well as by the recent development of organic farming in this part of the island. From there, the idea of a “Living Machine” came to us, to treat the wastewater coming from this part of the site and from the village immediately on the west side. The “Living Machine” is an ecological water treatment system formed from a series of basins with plants, fish and other organisms, placed in a greenhouse. Implanted along Gouin boulevard, this installation can act as a reminder of nursery greenhouses, a formerly distinctive sighting on the site and also play a didactic role for student groups already visiting the Cape-Saint-Jacques nature park.