Welcome centre for Quebec heritage site rises from the landscape

A stone-filled gabion wall runs along one side of this green-roofed visitors pavilion by architect Anne Carrier, which emerges from a slope at a heritage site in Canada.

The Welcome Pavilion is for Seigneurie des Aulnaies – a Quebec cultural heritage site notable for its Victorian estate with a manor house, mill and gardens.

Located in the Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies parish municipality on the Saint Lawrence River, north of Quebec City, the estate is representative of the province’s historic seigneurial, or feudal, society. The mill itself dates back to 1740s.

Canadian architect Carrier’s one-storey visitor centre juts out from a hillside, with its entrance wrapped in glass and grass continued up its gently sloped roof.

The design takes cues from characteristics of the site, such as its local river, bridges, and historic stone buildings.

A gabion wall, made from local stones encased in wire mesh, ascends from the earth on one side. The rocks match the stonework of a nearby retaining wall, parts of the riverbank and the mill itself.

“Stone is the project’s dominant source of inspiration,” said Anne Carrier Architecte, based in Lévis.

As the site slopes downward, the building’s roof angles up to culminate in a double-height entryway and a timber-topped canopy in front.

The building’s shape, stonework and grassy roof were all intended to help it “melt” into the landscape.

“The aim was to make the new building as discreet as possible, and showcase the site’s most interesting landscape and heritage features,” said the architect.

A ramped walkway passes alongside a black wall, on the other side of the building to the gabions. The large awning at the entrance projects towards a wooden walkway, which leads to the manor house.

“The project reflects a contemporary approach to integrating a new structure into a sensitive location, where the top priorities were to highlight historic architecture and landscape heritage,” the architect said.

In plan, the building widens as the roof inclines upwards. Therefore, the layout of spaces inside is organised to follow this hierarchy. A meeting and gathering space are located at the front, while restrooms are tucked further into the slope.

The centre serves as a gateway to the historic Seigneurie, and is used as a welcome centre with educational information, as well as a point for monitoring access to the site.

Photography is by Stéphane Groleau.

Project credits:

Client: Corporation touristique de la Seigneurie des Aulnaies, with Réal Perron and Dominique Garon
Designers: Anne Carrier, Robert Boily, Patricia Pronovost
Structural and civil engineers: Douglas Consultants
Mechanical engineer (electrical): Groupe Conseil Méconair
General contractor: Construction Citadelle

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