Reford Gardens

Architect Atelier in Situ and Vlan Paysages

Location Grand-Metis, Quebec

This first phase of the global project entitled Landscape 90–0 km/hr initiates the transformation of the historic Reford Gardens site into a landscaped park. Architectural firm Atelier in Situ and landscape architecture firm VLAN Paysages won the competition in 1999, their scheme a seamless integration of architecture and landscape.

Sited on the banks of the lower St. Lawrence River in rural Quebec, Reford Gardens is a six-hour drive from Montreal. To ease visitors from their hurtling journey along the highway to their ultimate arrival at the gardens, the architects have redesigned the landscape to create a perceptual transition through a series of intimate landscapes. The project is developed around the notion of displacement and arrival, from a high-speed panorama of movement to the eventual contemplative moment of reaching the garden destination.

The design team established a new area to house a contemporary garden festival and redesigned the entrance zone south of the historic gardens. As part of the scheme, “welcome structures” are comprised of successive screens and pavilions that are visually and physically interwoven at architectural and landscaped levels, inviting the visitor through a diversity of program and spatial conditions.

The entrance is divided into three landscape filters or screens in zones defined by historic and current access roads. The Anamorphic screen buffers between Route 132 and the gardens by building up existing tree plantings to create a dense forest, perceived by speeding motorists as the first hint of the gardens beyond. Next, visitors encounter the second filter of the Deceleration screen, comprised of trees planted in a linear rhythm to create a cadenced visual experience of arrival. Lastly, visitors on foot encounter a multi-layered Interpretation screen, where a series of rose gardens precede the promenade towards a lush herb garden. Released from vehicular confinement, the senses are awash in the fragrance, colours and tastes of a variety of judiciously selected plantings.

A perforated metal wall screens the main garden and integrates the interpretation posts. Graphic panels dynamically illustrate seasonal change to educate visitors on the landscapes of the Mtis region. To the east, the promenade terminates in a lookout over the Mtis river valley. To the west, the metal wall morphs into the faade of a visitor’s pavilion, marking an architectural transition to the gardens. The structure sits gently in its landscape, wrapping through a natural clearing, and hovering on pilotis over a portion of the production gardens. Elegant construction details softly mark the transition between interior and exterior, further enhancing the seamless integration of architecture and landscape.

Adam Caruso: This is a modestly scaled building complex that successfully commands the large territory of the garden festival site for which it provides amenity and support accommodation. The forms and construction of the project have a convincingly rural or small-scale industrial character without being picturesque or overtly referential. For example, the main building has pitched roofs, but they are tough and not sweet. It reminds me of Jean Prouv’s small structures where material and technique lend a slightly odd stylishness to the design. The wood, metal and glass claddings support the range of functional and environmental requirements across the site, and are handled with a consistency and lack of fuss that give the project an assured and mature quality.

Client Alexander Reford, Les Jardins De Metis

Architect Team Stephane Pratte, Annie Lebel, Marc-Andre Plasse

Landscape Architect Micheline Clouard, Julie St-Arnault

Graphic Design Uniform: Patrick Pellerin, Stephanie Cliche

Structural Nicolet, Chartrand, Knoll

Mechanical/Electrical Groupe Bpr

Contractor Laureat Pepin Inc.

Completion August 2003