Canadian Architect

Feature

National Mountain Centre

Award of Excellence

December 1, 2007
by Canadian Architect

ARCHITECT SAUCIER + PERROTTE ARCHITECTES WITH MARC BOUTIN ARCHITECT

LOCATION CANMORE, ALBERTA

In 2002, a group of committed mountain enthusiasts based in the Canadian Rockies came together with a vision to create a national centre devoted to celebrating, understanding and better experiencing our mountains. Four years later, the founding board of the National Mountain Centre (NMC) commissioned Saucier + Perrotte architectes and Marc Boutin Architects to develop an initial architectural concept for the proposed centre.

Located in Canmore, Alberta, north of the Trans-Canada highway at the gateway to Banff National Park, the NMC will advocate individual and collective responsibility for mountain resources, while advancing the economic and environmental well-being of the western mountain region through the promotion of responsible and sustainable tourism.

The NMC will consist of recreational, commercial and public spaces with features such as a world-class competitive climbing wall, permanent and temporary exhibits, research, meeting facilities, and state-of-the-art multimedia presentation theatres.

Conceptually, the NMC is inspired by geological strata–layers of rock are pulled apart to create habitable spaces that evoke the texture and materiality of the mountains while strategically allowing dramatic views of the surrounding landscape throughout the visitor experience. In continuity with its investigations into the layering of topography that began with Gerald-Godin College and extended right through its Objets Trouvs (Found Objects) exhibition at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, Saucier + Perrotte’s exploration into the nature and composition of landscape is evident with the NMC. The spaces within the solid strata make possible activities requiring the control of the transmission of light and sound. Visitors will have a spatial experience analogous to that of a mountain hike. The exhibitions are organized along a gently sloping route that winds through the Centre and around the central climbing wall, affording a continuous promenade for visitors to peruse the displayed artifacts and to absorb the vistas to the mountains. The mountains themselves become a permanent exhibit with distinct views framed by the spaces between the Centre’s strata.

Daoust: This project presents a simple parti yet a dramatic and bold emulation of the mountain and of its built strata. As a man-made built structure emerging from the ground, it echoes the surrounding scenery. A play of contrasts exists between the massiveness of the volumes and the immateriality of its glass skin, and between the rough ceiling texture and the reflective floors, which dramatizes the visual relationship with the surrounding environment. An internal architectural promenade is enriched with strategically framed visual connections to the surroundings, which culminates at the top of the building.

Kearns: This is a bold landscape poem–it is a sculpture in architecture that represents itself as being cut out of the very landscape in which it is sited. Such a strategy, if pursued without conviction, could be quite weak but here, the architect has created true landscape drama by surgically opening up the ground plane, reaching in, then tearing out crags, plates and ribs and stacking them up into a microcosm of the mountain landscape itself. It does this without seeking to replicate the landscape, but instead evokes the structural building blocks of the mountain landscape in a visual onomatopoeia. Only the south elevation seems not to fit the conceptual picture in that it makes the building appear to float like a hat on a verdant plain. This building really needs its visceral connection to the bowels of the earth to succeed.

Ostry: What better inspiration and point of departure for a place that celebrates the majesty and mystery of mountains than a piece of the mountain itself. The concept has been appropriately abstracted. There is a surreal quality associated with its internal focus of a climbing wall located in the middle of the mountains, like a swimming pool in the middle of the ocean. The project is very ambitious and relies on the context of the surrounding natural topography. This is where the project, for me, begins to wane a little. The building appears to sit on the landscape, rather than in it, but this may be more a fault of the representation than the design itself. It is still an excellent project.

CLIENT NATIONAL MOUNTAIN CENTRE

ARCHITECT TEAM GILLES SAUCIER (DESIGN ARCHITECT), ANDRE PERROTTE (ARCHITECT IN CHARGE), GUILLAUME SASSEVILLE, DAVID MOREAUX, LAWRENCE SIU, JEAN-PHILIPPE BEAUCHAMP, PATRICE BEGIN, PATRICK BISSON, MARC BOUTIN, ADAM SCALES, MAURICIO ROSA, RON CHOE, MIKE DEBOER, JERRY HACKER

GROUND FLOOR AREA 55,000 FT2

BUDGET: $35 M

COMPLETION 2009




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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