Breaking the Stereotype: Le 1500 rue Métivier, Lévis, Quebec
The new headquarters for a cooperative of chicken farmers brings contemporary sophistication to a rural industry.
PROJECT Le 1500 rue Métivier
ARCHITECT Anne Carrier architecture
TEXT Odile Hénault
PHOTOS Stéphane Groleau
The city of Lévis, population 150,000, sits at the juncture of two worlds: rural Quebec and the province’s capital city. Formed from an amalgamation of several small towns and villages initiated in 1989, the 444-square-kilometre territory is composed of 48 percent farmlands, and still revolves around the world of agriculture. This, along with the city’s location a 10-minute ferry ride away from Quebec’s seat of power, may explain why Exceldor, a 400-member poultry farmers’ cooperative, chose Lévis for its new headquarters.
The long journey from a group of little-known farmers’ cooperatives to a strong presence on the market started in 2013, when Exceldor hired well-respected advertising agency Cossette to rethink—and revamp—the brand’s visual identity. In 2020, a collaboration with lg2—another exceptionally gifted agency—led to an energetic communication strategy involving a new website and unique promotional campaigns. These days, Exceldor’s abstracted rooster logo has become a familiar presence in the province’s supermarkets.
Selecting an architectural firm able to match the sophistication of the brand’s strategy was the next challenge, which coincided with the desire to bring the cooperative’s employees into a single location. Just as Exceldor’s carefully considered branding is a far cry from the average city dweller’s perception of the rural world, the Cooperative set their sights on a design and location that would go beyond stereotypes. The chosen site was within a new development centred on Lévis’ Convention Centre, inaugurated in 2008. The district, called MISCÉO, has quickly expanded in the past fifteen years to include several mid-rise condominium complexes, a major hotel, a university building, and several low-rise commercial structures.
The four-storey structure at 1500 Métivier Street was purpose-built for Exceldor, which occupies the upper two levels. Two restaurants, a gym and several small businesses are on the ground floor, while forestry management agency Solifor occupies the second level. For locally minded developer AMT, the choice of Lévis’ Anne Carrier Architecture was an obvious one. The firm had amply proved its worth with the design of La Caisse Desjardins de Lévis’ headquarters. That project, which also involved ABCP Architecture, received a 2016 Governor General’s Award in Architecture.
As the design team searched the surroundings for sources of inspiration, the site offered few cues. Finally, they picked up on a tiny shift in the street grid. This innocuous prompt evolved into a major organizing element as the plans developed, particularly the third and fourth levels to be occupied by Exceldor. Vertical movement was also introduced: floors appear to be sliding above one another, breaking the scale and “making a visual connection with the nearby one-level structures,” according to the architects.
Another strategy, often used by Anne Carrier architecture, is the deployment of large metallic frames, which project from the buildings’ façades and bring them to life. The presence of Exceldor’s senior leadership is thus emphasized, as their fourth-floor offices reach forward from the northwest façade. From inside, the CEO and Board members enjoy a framed view of Lévis’ historic centre and Old Quebec City beyond.
At the other end of the building, a three-storey-high frame was introduced, breaking the monotony of the glass cladding. Similar thinking led to the insertion of dark spandrel glass panels on the two longer façades, which introduce visual rhythm while allowing for the flexible placement of internal partitions.
The interiors, also designed by Anne Carrier Architecture, were meant to encourage personal exchanges—of crucial importance in a post-pandemic context. Here and there, glass partitions interrupt the otherwise open work areas, maximizing natural light for all users. The third-floor reception desk is integrated into a central core, where washrooms, storage areas, and other services are concealed from view. The oak-veneer panels lining the core bring a feeling of warmth and well-being to both floors; wood is also widely used in the employees’ cafeteria to similar effect.
The two Exceldor floors are linked by a voluptuous perforated metal spiral staircase, acting as a pivot between employees and management. Thin concrete slabs allow for higher ceilings and a clear articulation of the volumes. The exposed concrete also set the tone for this project’s sober colour scheme, light-years away from rural stereotypes.
Although well-designed workplaces may not be unusual in larger, more prestigious businesses, achieving this quality of design in a mid-scale commercial building, for a client group usually associated with rural settings, remains a rare feat. Despite its relatively small size, and in its own subdued way, Exceldor’s headquarters is a powerful reminder of how architecture can engage in place-making. While commercial architecture is rarely recognized in awards, this is the kind of work that can be inspirational to architects—and their clients—showing how even the most ordinary of programs and locations can be elevated through design.
Odile Hénault is a contributing editor to Canadian Architect.
CLIENT Groupe Commercial AMT & Exceldor inc. | ARCHITECT TEAM Anne Carrier, Robert Boily, Martin L’Hébreux, Patricia Pronovost, Guy-David Paradis | STRUCTURAL Genie+ | MECHANICAL CBTEC | CONTRACTOR Ogesco construction | AREA 4715 m2 | BUDGET $10 M | COMPLETION October 2022