Canadian Architect

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French River Provincial Park Visitor Centre

December 1, 2005
by Canadian Architect

Architect Baird Sampson Neuert Architects

Location Killarney, Ontario

Moving beyond the role of container, the building embraces its condition as a place of passage and is itself an expedition; through its siting, organization, views and exhibition, and as a responsible construction in nature. The project establishes an architecture of the river, which invokes its defining physical qualities and cultural legacy.

Flowing across this landscape of rock and water, the visitor experience is organized along an inclined topography, establishing an interpretive armature for the project. Along this inclined topography, a series of terraces accommodate public rooms and events, providing physical extension between interior and exterior landscapes. Cultural narratives are organized as temporal layers that float above an undulating, constructed riverscape.

The building is organized into two primary vessels. Visitor and mechanical services are located behind an expansive concrete wall that merges with the site, while a larger wooden volume hovers above this found/constructed landscape, providing shelter for the exhibit and community events space.

Responsible stewardship extends the interpretive experience of the project. The building is sited to minimize environmental impact, as determined through a detailed assessment of the site’s terrestrial, aquatic and cultural resources. Design and stewardship messages are introduced in the parking lot by a series of constructed “islands” that mark locations of water-related infrastructure. Exterior terraces are provided with protection from winter winds and ample solar access: inert and durable local materials–wood, concrete and stone are the primary building components. Constructed upon an outcrop of exposed granite, this stone mass has been insulated to provide thermal storage for the centre and is exposed on the interior as part of the building’s exhibit.

Ouellette: As an Outward Bound alumnus, some of my fondest memories are from days spent navigating the French River Delta. While there, and especially during the required solo experiences, I imagined what kinds of architectural forms would complement the geology of this special Canadian place. With a human heritage thousands of years older than the institution of Canada, the river was an early trading route and, to a fanciful imagination, retains the stuff of myth, legend, and ghosts. So, I was surprised to see the design of this Visitor Centre. Like the river it celebrates, it too is about cascade and flow. It captures an essence of place–both obvious yet elusive–in a way that, in all those quiet nights on the glacier-sculpted delta, I could only hope to imagine.

Provencher: This project offers a unique and exclusive experience on the French River, Canada’s first Heritage Waterway. Composed mainly of rock and water, the shape of the building is reminiscent of the materiality of nature. This wonderful little pavilion literally floats over the escarpment and the river, expressing the solidity and fragility of our environment.

Taylor: The evocation of its topography lends a legitimacy and beauty to what on another site might have been construed as formal manipulation for its own sake. This building both grows from the site and hovers over it in a poetic harmony with nature, reinforced by an expressive material palette of concrete and wood.

Client Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Parks

Architect Team Jon Neuert, Geoffrey Thun, Gregory Reuter, Dieter Janssen, Mauro Carreno, Barry Sampson, Jennifer Anderson, Seth Atkins, Mark Martin, Nene Stout, Jose Uribe

Structural Blackwell Bowick Partnership Ltd.

Mechanical the Mitchell Partnership Inc.

Electrical Mulvey and Banani International Inc.

Landscape Harrington and Hoyle Ltd.

Exhibit Design Baird Sampson Neuert Architects With Philip Beesley Architect

Interpretive Planning Apropos

Contractor Kona Builders Ltd.

Area 8,800 Ft2

Budget $3.5 M Building / $1 M Exhibit

Completion December 2005




Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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