Promenade Samuel-de-Champlain

URBAN DESIGNERS Daoust Lestage Inc., Williams Asselin Ackaoui and Option Aménagement, in consortium
LOCATION Quebec City, Quebec

Honouring Quebec City’s 400th anniversary and drawing on the unique history and genius loci of the site, the Promenade Samuel-de-Champlain unites two icons of Quebec City’s identity–the river and the cliff–creating a coherent, active landscape façade for this capital city.

The Promenade reclaims neglected industrial and infrastructural fringe, transforming it into a public, leisure-oriented natural environment and reactivating the city’s access to the St. Lawrence River and shoreline. The project delicately weaves together diverse experiences and atmospheres, navigating from the boundless visual expanse of the river to the tactile, sensory experience of human scale.

The Quai des Cageux marks the western entrance of the project. The use of wood as the singular, signature material of the Pavilion and the Observation Tower references the harbour vernacular and the lumber pilings that characterized Quebec’s ports for decades. Reviving the imagery of a river pier, its structures and activities, the Quai des Cageux honours Quebec City’s past while creating a contemporary local landmark and light beacon on the horizon. The name–Quai des Cageux–refers to the fearlessness of restless lumberjacks who once danced on an endless sea of floating wood logs.

The Cageux Pavilion is wrapped in wood inside and out. The building houses a multi-functional space with carefully choreographed covered outdoor spaces, all directly overlooking the river. Seamlessly extending out onto the belvedere’s public deck, the Pavilion’s 250 square metres are able to accommodate a variety of exhibits and events related to the Promenade Samuel-de-Champlain.

The Observation Tower sits at the southern edge of the Quai des Cageux’s belvedere and brings visitors 25 metres above the river. The tower, with its steel structure and latticed timber flanks, creates a panoramic window onto the river, the bridges and the new linear park.

As an essential gesture, the Promenade Samuel-de-Champlain requalifies a highway into a landscaped, permeable urban boulevard. The sinuous 2.5-kilometre pedestrian and bicycle path acts as the project’s connecting spine. Immersed in an all-encompassing green tide are four thematic gardens: Quai des Brumes, Quai des Flots, Quai des Hommes, and Quai des Vents. Each of these singular landscape follies captures and magnifies the material and poetic qualities of the local coastal environment.

The gardens celebrate the mist, the sensory pleasures of the water, the memory of the docklands’ archetypes and the power of the wind. The sublime atmospheres and textures are created by the interconnections of a variety of materials, and the use of stone boulders, timber assemblies and Corten steel thresholds, with native plants and trees, all complemented by vapour, shade, glowing lights and reflections on the water.

The urban furniture, specifically designed for this project, maintains the robust simplicity of maritime harbour heritage, paramount to this site’s genius loci. The linear rhythm of benches and lights is complemented by freely placed furniture, dotting the landscape like rafts in a sea of greenery.

The underlying achievement of the Promenade Samuel-de-Champlain is its contribution to the restoration of this unique, rich and diverse coastal ecosystem and the renewed accessibility to the St. Lawrence River and its banks.

Jane Pendergast: This project animates the St. Lawrence River edge with a lively array of outdoor places. I like the beautifully restrained compositions of pure elements that are strung along the pathway system.

Betsy Williamson: There is no imposition of the project on the pedestrian. The built moments are not only finely crafted but are quietly balanced between historical allusion and contemporary culture.

Client Commission de la capitale nationale du Québec (Serge Filion, Diane Simard)
Design Team Réal Lestage, Renée Daoust, Caroline Beaulieu, Lucie Bibeau, Martin Adam, Maria Benech, André Nadeau, Simon Magnan, Rachel Philippe-Auguste, Catherine St-Marseille, Hubert Pelletier, Nelson Couture, Jacques Michaud
Engineering Genivar and SNC-Lavalin
Contractor Pomerleau
Lighting Éclairage Public
Area 2.5 km in length
Budget $50 M
Completion June 2008