December 1, 2003
by Canadian Architect
Reford Gardens, Grand-Mtis, Quebec
Pierre Thibault, architecte
From its location at the confluence of the Mitis and St. Lawrence rivers, the Mitis River Park presents an opportunity to observe a variety of the area’s ecosystems. Though limited, its surface area nonetheless encompasses differing natural environments including the river, an escarpment, tidal flats, the forest, and a marsh. Trails, punctuated by understated observation posts, develop themes unique to the ecosystems such as the delta of the Mitis River, the shoreline, the forest, and the estuary. The trails also provide insight for visitors observing the special physical and biological features of each of these settings.
The foreshore is a portion of the littoral comprising tidal flats, an intervention located on the trail that leads to Baie Mitis and what the architect calls a “figurative summary” of the portion of the coast in question.
The moss comprises the walk on scattered logs that invites visitors in to a setting of moss. The highest logs act as railings, while others function as benches. In winter, snow covers the ground and the logs, leaving only fragmentary traces of passage.
The view-point as a component are belvederes in wood and steel, rooms open to the landscape whose intense colours correspond to individual views at hand. Elements within the observed landscape are thereby brought to the forefront.
The observation tower will enrich visitors’ experiences by providing them with a panoramic view of the mouth of the Mitis River and the St. Lawrence. Small interpretation balconies, located at intervals on the tower and to be used upon ascent, make it possible to appreciate a progression from one natural setting to another. The tower is also an important reference point in the park and a visual link to the Reford Gardens.
The floating shelter component is a permanent installation within the marsh, playing on the phenomenon of tides and proposing ways of observing them, acting as a refuge timed to the tides, a shower, a floating lantern, or a floating garden.
Boutin: The innovative ideas through which the landscape is revealed to the visitor in this project forces one to look past the project’s relatively under-developed delineation. I was particularly struck by the spectrum of sensory cues cultivated by the interventions. These interventions also gain validity through their seamless and sustainable reuse of existing materials gathered from the site(s).
Rosenberg: The park goes beyond its mandate of creating an experience where, in the least intrusive way, park patrons can interact with a specific landscape. The designers have managed to place the viewer in a landscape. I especially appreciate the belvederes and water shelters.
Sherman: I find the floating gardens the most successful of the designer’s various proposals to reframe the experience of the landscape; these are as much to be looked out of, as viewing devices, as they are a spectacle in and of themselves….
Top: the observation tower. Left: the site plan shows l’estran (the foreshore), la mousse (the moss), la tour (the observation tower) and a cabin.
Client: Mitis River Park in collaboration with Reford Gardens
Architect team: Pierre Thibault, Charles Ferland, Virginie Dervaux, Alexandra Merer, Thibaud Foucray, Jean-Franois Mercier
Structural: BPR Groupe-conseil, Pierre-Claude Gagnon
Electrical: BPR Groupe-conseil
Landscape: Pierre Thibault, architecte
Interiors: Pierre Thibault, architecte
Other specialist consultants: Francis Bujold, Les nergies solaires et oliennes
Area: 250,000 m2
Budget: withheld by request
Completion: summer 2004 and 2005
Photography: Pierre Thibault
The observation tower
The Saint Lawrence River
The site plan shows l’estran (the foreshore), la mousse (the moss), la tour (the observation tower) and a cabin.
A proposed intervention along the foreshore, a photomontage showing the scale of the intended floating shelters
Experimenting with mock-ups of floating shelters
The moss-covered forest