ARCHITECT Eric Pelletier Architectes
LOCATION Quebec City, Quebec

The Millipede footbridge is part of Quebec City’s bicycle path development project that crosses the entire municipality before reaching the shores of the St. Lawrence River. This particular section of the path is located in an industrial and railway site just below a main overpass–a hostile and unsightly environment that is worrisome for both cyclists and pedestrians.

Integrating dedicated bike paths is difficult to achieve in urban areas, but when they are located in an industrial site, the problems are very different. This project’s site is primarily characterized by the concrete superstructure of the above-grade highway, in addition to an existing railway. The main purpose of the Millipede project is to establish a safe bike crossing over the railway of a busy switching yard.

The architectural response was to introduce, in the words of the architects, “a bit of craziness, a touch of colour, and a new sense of chaos.” Rather than integrating a subtle piece of new cycling infrastructure, it was agreed upon that a brightly coloured footbridge would work its way through existing concrete columns.

The design intent is to make a clear visual statement when arriving at the site. A long red glazed ribbon with its sides folded and positioned at various angles is able to reflect the lights coming at it from all directions. Perceptible through the existing concrete columns, the new structure will be supported with steel columns arranged in a seemingly random pattern that will only heighten the contrast between the existing and new structures.

Millipede acts as an object of discovery and site experience, a stroll at various levels and scales that is intended to be an object of curiosity and a new landmark, capable of elevating the cyclist’s experience.

JC: It is a very interesting and poetic gesture, one that would be welcomed in any city, especially in contrast to typically banal highway infrastructure. Unfortunately, the resolution of the bridge itself seems underdeveloped.

AK: As an urban suture, this project is a radical mending. It is active in its attempt to deal with the disastrous results of the ubiquitous 1960s and ’70s infrastructure projects which scarred so many of our cities. The project’s success is that it does so not through the normative methods of demolition, gentrification and denial, but through a delicate threading, suturing and mediation. Millipede has a critical neutrality. On one hand, it inherently celebrates what was great about these large-scale infrastructural projects: their ambition, clarity, scale and willfulness. On the other hand, it quietly critiques its context through formal tension and by creating spaces of movement and repose, human scale, and material engagement. Most powerfully, Millipede does all this while beautifully and carefully curating the user’s experience within this part of the city.

JL: The proposition is very engaging in that it doesn’t shy away from acknowledging/representing the harsh environment in which it is to be inserted. We all found that although there was much to commend with its conceptual vitality, there was a lack of information about the tectonics–particularly how it’s made and with what material–that acted as a barrier to letting us engage fully with the proposition. If more detail were included, I think it would have made the submission more satisfying.

Client Ville de Qubec
Architect Team Eric Pelletier, Amlie Turgeon, Annie Martineau
Structural EMS Ingnirie
Landscape Eric Pelletier Architectes
Photographer Eric Pelletier Architectes
Budget $2 M
Completion 2012