RAIC Awards–President’s Award for Media in Architecture

Philippe Lupien, MRAIC, MOAQ, MAAPQ, is an architect and landscape architect, and past recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts’ Prix de Rome (1996). He has been distinguished with a Grand nom de l’architecture from the Université Laval and is a Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) ambassador.

Lupien has been engaged in a transdisciplinary architectural practice since 1984 with Jacques Rousseau, Atelier KAOS and Scheme consultants. Concomitantly, he has worked as a professor at the Université de Montréal and at UQAM, and as a journalist with SILO, Art et architecture Québec (ARQ) and Le Devoir. He served on the editorial committee of ARQ magazine in the 1990s. More recently, he brought his interest in outreach and communication to the more public arena of television as host and content director of the program Visite libre.

The Visite libre program that Lupien has hosted from the very first episode (there have been 97 to date, presenting more than 175 residences) was aired for the first time in 2003 and is still in production. This program, dedicated to increasing awareness of residential architecture in Quebec through the experience of its owners, has gradually built up a wide audience on two cultural stations in Quebec and on one international station. With roughly 75,000 regular viewers on ARTV and 150,000 on TéléQuébec, this program has introduced the stations’ target audience to the work of more than 100 contemporary architects and restorers in addition to presenting the buildings of 19th- and 20th-century architects.

For four years, the international TV5 monde station has broadcast this program in 200 countries. TV5, which is available to 120 million households and has a general viewership of 54 million, provides widespread promotion of Quebec’s local architecture. It should be noted that Visite libre is one of the rare cultural programs produced in Quebec to be exported across the five continents. 

With the same team of researchers for the past six years, Lupien has identified and meticulously documented the process leading to each project’s final outcome. He also ensures that each season features a spectrum of concerns and diverse fields of expertise, including renovation, restoration and the exploration of new stylistic and methodological approaches. The strategy is simple: rather than providing renovation tips and advice, the program highlights and elucidates the work of architects while underscoring the importance of quality client-architect collaboration. There is also special focus on the use of solutions that some would call ecological, but which attempt to demonstrate relevant and sustainable technical innovation.

Jury Comments

The Visite libre series offers the most direct mode of experiencing and understanding architecture, short of the largely untenable option of visiting these private houses in person. The roving camera’s walk-through of each space, accompanied by the host’s insightful and unpretentious observations and questions, allows viewers to engage on a level that is both visceral and informed, as well as entertaining. Authoritative guest hosts such as Phyllis Lambert and Pierre Thibault enhance our intellectual understanding of these projects even further.

The jury for this award was comprised of Paule Boutin, AP/FIRAC; Barry Hobin, PP/FRAIC; and Adele Weder.