Canadian Architect

Feature

Emerging Talent: PARKA Architecture

July 14, 2017
by Sarah Brown

Clara Boulanger Couture, Philippe Chabot, Véronique Boulet, Gisèle Fraser, Luc Bélanger, Olivier Lebrun, Stéphane Sarian, Karine Audy, Camille Bernard, Marie-Hélène Cliche, Gabriel Coughlan (Missing: Geneviève Guimont). Photo by Marie-Noelle Cloutier

A parka is warm and enveloping, promising protection on a human scale. It’s an ideal name given the aspirations of Luc Bélanger and Geneviève Guimont, who co-founded PARKA Architecture & Design in 2013. “We wanted our name to give the sense of what we aim to do, without sounding too architecty,” says Bélanger, 41. Their one-stop-shop strategy has paid off, allowing the 13-person firm to thrive as an architecture firm while also pursuing product design.

ARKA is currently designing the Base de plein air de Sainte-Foy, Quebec. Rendering by Étienne Dumas

PARKA looks for work based on three principles: Is it fun? Is it creative? Do they have the resources to design it to a high level of quality? In the past few years, this has led them to take on complex projects in the $20-million range, but also small renovation and branding jobs.

The team’s graphic sensibility extends to the sharp geometries of the Saint-Apollinaire Multipurpose Centre in Quebec, which includes a double gymnasium and four community rooms. Photo by Jessy Bernier

Of late, three disparate projects have their creative juices flowing. The firm is restoring and renovating a former fire station, Caserne No5, as a hub for start-ups, and designing a multi-purpose building to service a recreational green space in Sainte-Foy. There’s also a new sports complex on the go in Quebec City. The latter stems from the success of the first sports centre PARKA designed—the sleek and light-filled Saint-Apollinaire Multipurpose Centre, which opened in 2015. “That project gave us credibility,” says Bélanger. “It let everyone know that we could handle a job of that size.”

Realized 
in collaboration with Christine Lavallée and Jérémy Hall, the design for the mexican restaurant chain Zolé! extends from branding to interior. Photo by Jessy Bernier

As for the future? The co-founders plan to keep doing what they’re doing, while growing the product design side of the business. Says Bélanger, “Now that we’re starting to have repeat clients, we don’t have to do as much business development. People are coming to us because they like what we do and how we do it.”