Waterscape - An Atlantic perspective

18th august to 26th september 2014

École d’Architecture Faculté d’Aménagement, d’Architecture, d’Art et Design Université Laval, Québec (Canada)

The Saint Lawrence River is one of main fluvial gateways to the North America continent; the original axis of development in Canada and its coastline defines the quintessential territory settled by the French-speaking descendants since the earlier colonial regime. The river management and the shores’ land use are divided between the Canadian federal government, the Quebec provincial administration and the local municipal authority. These political frameworks directly affect
the nature of territorial planning and urban design. The waterways served the larger fishing and commercial interest of international trade across the Atlantic while the land use answers regional and local needs, ambitions and opportunities.
The proposed research and design studio explores the spatial encounter of these juxtaposed scales of specific concerns along the Rimouski’s coastline surrounding “Le Bic” village. The federal pier and railway by the river, the Quebec provincial natural park, the agricultural landscape and the regional roads, the linear village with his typical parish centre set the components of the waterscape. But planning and design is more than the sum of land use and their layouts; yet the interactive relationships between these components remain at best incidental. The encounter of these land uses and the built infrastructures raises key issues about the interaction between the definition of Nature and the formal expression of the Human imprint, notably within the sustainable framework.

As the founding axis of the European stamp, what are the historical and current implications of the Saint Lawrence coastline’s planning and design? How a better spatial integration of land use and layout may improve the inhabitants and visitors experience of a picturesque setting? What are the effective definition and development patterns offered to the ‘natural landscape’ versus the settled environment? Where sustainability comes as a design guideline when the spatial resource is plentiful and the population limited? How should we understand and foresee the relationship between nature and culture for this new century?
The studio offers over 5 weeks two main exercises;
- At the territorial scale, one addresses the land use between development and preservation of the natural assets, agriculture, forest and human settlements, infrastructures – including transportation - modes and scales, with a overall emphasis on the transition from the seashore to the dwellings, fields and forests
- At the local scale, in “Le Bic”, the effective and fruitful encounter of the different land uses and infrastructures where team projects of two student will explore the design translation of the issues identified at the territorial scale;

The internship (with an amount of 250 hours from August 18th to September 25th) was created as part of the International Master's Degree Program "Waterscape. Designing for Sustainable Coastal Settlements Territories" organised by the University of Sassari - Department of Architecture, Design and Planning, and the Université Laval, Faculté d' Aménagement, on the Architecture of Art and Design - Ecole d'Architecture.
The activities, that took place at the School of Architecture in Quebec City, analysed the territory of Rimouski and Le Bic National Parc.
The internship was divided into three phases. The first phase (week 1-2) started with a field trip to the project site. During this period, the students had the opportunity to meet technicians and representatives of local government that supported them in developing a cognitive framework of needs, challenges and opportunities for this area. The last part of the first week and the second week were dedicated to reorganise cartographic, photographic, environmental and informative data and to the development of a project idea. In the second phase (week 3-4), students were divided into three interdisciplinary teams with different professionals (architects, urban planners and naturalists). Each group developed its own design hypothesis, focusing on specific issues and developing its own strategies. The three projects involved the entire study area and were related one to each other. In the third phase (week 5-6), each team identified two or more areas in which it developed the proposed intervention, keeping as reference the general strategy. The three project ideas for this area
are: "Rimouski's Islands", "Landscapes Through the Lines" and "Reclaiming Water". The project "Rimouski's Islands" started from the identification of areas of border that divide the different landscapes (agriculture, settlement, river, etc.) and structure Rimouski's area through a system of "islands". Through the redefinition and reinterpretation of the concept of edge, the strategy reveals the complexity and the potential of the area, in contrast to the sequence of homogeneous and monotonous landscapes that are perceived along the main road infrastructure. In this sense the edge becomes the intermediate space that, on the one hand highlights the diversity of the area, but at the same time shows the possible relationships between different areas of landscape.
The search of new relationships is also a key word in the project "Landscapes Through the Lines" that explores the attribution of new meanings to the two main axes infrastructure of the territory of Rimouski: the 132 coastal road and the rail, two connections, but also two breaks within the landscape. The proposed project examines the impact of these elements and explores, through some micro-interventions, the ability to relate the two "lines" with the most significant systems of this river landscape (Le Bic National Park , the river system the St. Lawrence, the city center of Rimouski, Le Bic village, etc.). The need to establish a relationship with the water resource is the aim that emerges from the study of the spatial structure of the area carried out in the project "Reclaiming Water". The analysis of territorial dynamics reveals the presence of a set of environmental guidelines and allows to identify a number of environmental and urban axis, perpendicular to the coast, capable of linking the inland areas of the region with the banks of the St. Lawrence River.