The Centre d'interprétation du Bourg de Pabos was built as a result of one of the few new architectural competitions in Quebec. It is located in the Gaspé along a touristic route, on the site of an 18th century french settlement.
In interpretation centers, architecture and interpretation tend to be distinct elements. In Pabos, the challenge set by the competition organizers to make of the building a vehicle for interpretation is somehow unique. Therefore the realization of Pabos' interpretation centre can be seen as an innovative experiment both in the setting of the competition and in the conceptualisation/ construction of the building.
While Pabos' archaeological vestiges are very rich and quite peculiar, they are undecipherable fragments to the layman. The site however, evokes through its physical characteristics (the landlord's island, the point where the fishermen worked and lived, the 'barachois' closing the bay of Grand Pabos) the past occupations. It is through the site that architecture starts addressing interpretation.
Competing for the design of an interpretation center for the Gaspé region of Québec demanded the elaboration and communication of an architectural strategy, ie. how do we answer to a brief..? This strategy was presented in the form of four points.
1. Formal Position1
A structure comparable to a giant exhibition stand is installed on the point. Articulated and transformable, the structures walls open outward to the landscape in the summer, and in winter they contract, the structure closing in on itself.
In response to the seaside, in-season, off-season, nature of the Gaspé the building takes part in the regions transformation, closing up for the winter and springing to life like a fairground in the summer. Formally the project took on aspects of a giant cabinet with analogies to drawers and cupboard doors providing inspiration for the development of a kinetic enclosure system that technically operates at the level of a do-it-yourself (bricolage) project. Inspiration to this image is found in the agitprops of the Russian avant-garde, particularly the proposals of the constructivist Klucis.
The intervention adopts the scale established by the large elements of the bay region:the breakwater, the railroad, the high tension lines, the landfill of the town of Chandler.
In the loneliest of conditions, where contemporary communications render the peripheral condition ambiguous (so near, yet still so far) how is one to acquire bearings? The physical connections remain primarily the car, the road, the rail line...Fundamental infrastructures denote human foraging into the wilds, they are the structures upon which we could build. In the case of Pabos this meant establishing a relationship with the road and rail line (perpendicular) and geographical (the cross peninsula movement). Then the problem of programmatic insignificance (a problem of scale endemic to all peripheral conditions) pushes architecture beyond its traditional skin: the building is stretched, extrapolated across the site hence acquiring an enlarged (false) scale and sense of importance.
4. Interpretation Strategy
The history of Pabos is superimposed upon its landscape: images evoking this history are reproduced on pivoting perforated panels. Viewed on an angle the panels are opaque and only the image is read. Viewed face to face, they are transparent, through the image the landscape appears.
A seamless relationship was developed between contents and container, avoiding the traditional separation between communication and architecture as support or environment. The structure is a machine 'for seeing.' The structure-passage protects and directs the visitor. On its north side its pivoting walls (a kind of magic screen) superimpose the history of Pabos upon its landscape. The interpretation mediums (transparent panels, niches, etc.) are spatially and structurally significant, opening up the center to the site, not screening it off. The site and its history is interpreted by each visitor through various "clues" including, the site itself, the building, texts, artifacts, large transparent images, and discussion with guides. One interesting aspect of this non-reconstructive approach to interpretation is to leave the physical past of the site up to the visitors' imagination. Archaeology and history are often perceived as definitive and immutable. The notion of interpretation, and in this case an interpretation center, helps to underline the openness of these fields. A visit starts a process that creates a personal understanding of what happened there. More than one narrative is possible. The entire project becomes a low-tech interactive installation.
Cité au nombre des plus importants projets nationaux du 20e siècle par le périodique The Canadian Architect
Grand Prix d'architecture de l'OAQ, 1994
Prix du Gouverneur Général du Canada, 1994
Prix d'excellence de «The Canadian Architect», 1992
Projet lauréat au concours d'architecture, 1992
Chargé de projet: Anne Cormier
année de réalisation 1993
budget initial 1M$ incluant l'exposition
budget final 1M$ incluant l'exposition
concours novembre 1990 à janvier 1991
préliminaires mai à juillet 1992
dossier d'exécution août 1992 à janvier 1993
construction mars 1993 à août 1993
Jean-Luc Tremblay, président de la corporation du Bourg de Pabos
no de téléphone (418) 689-6043
Atelier Big City at Twenty-One
Atelier Big City / Cormier, Cohen, Davies, architects
Atelier Big City (Anne Cormier, Randy Cohen, Howard Davies) – was established in Montreal in 1987. The group’s name as well as their slogan “Make Architecture a Public Policy” reflects a commitment to exploring work that is based on an informed understanding of the city as an ongoing project rich in ideas and untapped potential. Atelier Big City is known for its innovative and often gregarious approach to architectural design. Completed work demonstrates the group’s desire to build provocatively yet also deal sensitively with issues related to site organization, construction, program, and budget. The work of Big City, both built and unbuilt converts restrictions and limitations into results that celebrates the latent potential and optimism of everyday life. The projects are structured on a strong conceptual approach based on the interpretation of program and siting strategies. Of particular interest to the group is the notion of public space in buildings and the importance of the architectural promenade, a spatial journey animated by relations established between elements of the program, and between the built project and its environment. Each project is an exploration in generating an architectural milieu of grand sensual stimulation through the use of very simple means: color, volume, material and structure. The work of Atelier Big City explores the potential for the creation of spaces in which the various themes of movement, structure, function, materiality, and form are dynamically employed. Atelier Big City has pursued design work founded upon a re-interpretation of the built urban landscape, investigating through the re-configuring of urban typologies, material assemblage, programmatic combinations, and a desire to blur the limits between architectural space, and landscape. There is a desire for the playful, to be able to climb on, to walk on architecture. The form of the city is seen as accumulative, without beginning nor end, it is constant manipulation.
Atelier Big City has received a number of awards and honours in architectural design, urban integration and landscape design. These include the grand prize of the Order of Architects of Quebec in 1994 for their Interpretation Centre in Pabos, Québec, the Prix de Rome in 1998, a Governor general’s medal in 2006 for their innovative urban housing U2. The same project later won a prize for architectural integration awarded by the city of Montreal in 2008. In 2006 the group was selected for the Landscape architecture award from the Institute de Design Montréal. More recently the group received to awards from Candian Architect magazine for the Cultural Centre of NDG and the “U” ( prizes in design excellence) In 2016 the group received an award for the “Sept-Plex” ( Grand Prix de Design)
Work by Atelier Big City have been exhibited and presented through lectures in North America, Asia and in Europe. The group are firm supporters of architectural competitions .Three of their built projects are the direct result of this process. The members of the group are also committed educators.
Randall Cohen, MOAQ
Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Randy Cohen is a graduate of Montreal’s McGill University (B.Sc.Arch. et B.Arch., 1978-82), and of the Architectural Association of London (Graduate Diploma in Architectural Theory, Architectural Association of London, 1985-86). He is a member of the Quebec Order of Architects since 1991. He has taught at the University of Quebec in Montréal since 1989 and at Université de Montréal since 1990.
Anne Cormier, MOAQ, MIRAC
Anne Cormier is a co-founder of Atelier Big City. She has a professional bachelor’s degree in architecture from McGill University (1982) and a Certificat d’études approfondies en architecture urbaine from the Unité Pédagogique d’Architecture Paris-Villemin (1987). Professor at the School of Architecture at Université de Montréal, where she has served as director from 2007 to 2015, she is affiliated with the Laboratoire d’étude de l’architecture potentielle (LEAP), an inter-university group dedicated to research on the design process in architecture. She is a member of the National Capital Commission’s Advisory Committee on Planning, Design and Realty in Ottawa. She regularly sits on other committees dedicated to excellence in architectural and urban projects and on architectural juries. She received the UBC Margolese National Design for Living Prize in 2018.
Howard Davies, MOAQ
Howard Davies is a graduate of McGill University ((B.Sc.Arch. et B.Arch., 1978-83). He is a member of the Ordre des Architectes du Quebec since 1991. He has been teaching at McGill University since 1987, where he was named the “Clifford C.F. Wong Professor of Practice” in 2016. He has been instrumental in developing Global studios in both China and Israel. He has also taught in the Department of Design and Computational Arts and in the Department of Cinema at Concordia University since 1991.
the team 2003-2008