New sustainable Exploration Centre in Laval, Canada by Cardin Julien

Cardin Julien,

David Boyer, Boyer-Média,

Laval, Québec, Canada,

Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism, Nature Center,


The Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles Exploration Centre by Cardin Julien brings a number of different services under the one roof. The sustainable building is targeting LEED Gold certification and was designed with the goal of helping people understand and appreciate the Mille Îles river, a true gem in Laval, Canada.

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New sustainable Exploration Centre in Laval, Canada by Cardin Julien The Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles is a non-profit organization with the mission of protecting, conserving and showcasing mainly the Mille Îles River and its tributaries, with the support––and on behalf of––the local community. In 1998, the Quebec government granted 10 of the islands in this part of the river near Laval status as a wildlife reserve, for a total of 26 hectares.
Correspondingly, one of the goals of the park’s new multipurpose centre (Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles Exploration Centre) in Laval, a city in southwestern Quebec, north of Montreal on Île Jésus is to give architectural form to the diffusion of the park’s key values: protecting and conserving natural habitats, showcasing and providing access to the river’s treasures, and promoting public input and eco-citizenship, in particular through information, awareness, participation and training activities. To this end, the architecture by Montreal-based firm, Cardin Julien has been designed along the lines of a community and educational resource, a services area and a support centre for the park’s activities: indeed, an interpretation centre for the river and its ecosystems, as well as sporting and educational activities.
The main building is comprised of 3 floors. The ground floor is home to a large multipurpose hall that has a view of the river where the café and reception area are located, a room for conferences and events, and a museum area for the permanent exhibition called Believe It or Not!, highlighting the history of the river, its vast ecosystem, and its environmental issues. The lower level (river level) houses the equipment rental area and a locker room, an ecology laboratory, researchers’ offices, and day camp facilities. A multipurpose room, which can be rented and divided into three sections, is located upstairs alongside the employee relaxation area.  
The Cardin Julien team of architects opted to use wood for the building’s exterior, so the project would integrate seamlessly into its environment. Wood can also be found inside the building, fostering a warm environment and setting up a connection between visitors and the nature around them. In addition, the structure was built in such a way that it preserves the mature trees growing on site.
The project for Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles by Cardin Julien also included the renovation of the old stable, repurposing it as a workshop and equipment distribution kiosk (watercraft, docks, supports). It also extended outdoors, where a new exterior site was designed to include parking, a bike path, pedestrian walkways, and landscaping, all to make the park even more accessible and enjoyable.
The building is the City of Laval’s first public project to aim for LEED NC 2009 GOLD certification. The firm was particularly attentive to water management and designed a system to recycle rainwater.  Energy conservation is also at the heart of the building’s design, most notably with a high-performance envelope and the integration of vegetation on the roofs and walls. With all of this, the project respectively and sustainably connects with the natural environment around it.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: Cardin Julien - https://www.cardinjulien.com/en/
Location: Laval, Québec, Canada
Year: 2019
Images: David Boyer


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