This project tests architecture’s potential as a genius loci for a new community. Framed by the needs of a small city surrounded by a bucolic landscape, this place of meaning knits a fabric for further community spaces on a new, untouched site. Born of a design-build architectural competition, with all solutions framed by tight cost constraints, it created a challenging context for excellence. The goal from inception was to leverage delicate and nuanced design strategies to make the most of this community-building opportunity.
Our design juxtaposes the exceptional and the everyday, reflecting the contrast between the quiet plains of the Saint Lawrence Lowlands and the dramatic emergence of Mont Saint-Hilaire from their centre; the methodical, repetitive movements of a swimmer and the free movement of a child playing in the water.
The city’s panorama is exceptional, defined by the meeting of sky and farmlands, punctuated by the Richelieu River and the Monteregian mountains. Our team's approach is derived from its perception of the beauty and spirit of place; the tension among sky, water and plain; the opposition of light and earth, stemming from the vibration of built and natural landscapes and the mountain’s strong presence.
The concept addresses this unique context with a strong architectural response. The aquatics centre becomes a signal element above the space that surrounds it, an integral part of the local panorama. By day, a bright white prism can be seen rising slightly above the surrounding roofs, while in the evening, this light box reveals both the depth of its structure and the nature of the aquatics activities it hosts.
BETWEEN SKY, WATER, AND EARTH
The building stands between heaven and earth, emerging from the agrarian soil and the residential landscape. It is expressed through a simple volumetry, the result of two distinct geometries and materialities: a luminous glass case, placed on a black base.
This encounter between opacity and transparency, the black of the base and the light of the pools, offers a great richness of vibration, texture and architectural variation. It transforms according to the building’s different points of view as seen from urban thoroughfares echoing the rhythms of pedestrians, cyclists or motorists.
LIGHT AND VIEWS
Transparency showcases the most significant views. A large, translucent bezel in the upper portion of the southeast façade frames Mont Saint-Hilaire and extends over the entire width of the pools, directly on the mountain’s axis. Users swim, bathe or slide in relation to the mountain, whose presence becomes a large, full-sized luminous picture perceptible from the pools, the entrance hall and the bleachers upstairs.
Stunning views define opposing facades, which also frame the relationships between various program elements and the surrounding outdoors: from the sports and recreational pool, towards the hall, the reception and its rest area or towards the outdoor terrace. From the car landing, an opening frames the recreational pool and its water games, hinting at the hustle and bustle of indoor activities.
The centre has been carefully designed to optimize function and the overall architectural ensemble. The project is compact, its internal volume is simple and generous while effectively meeting the various functional and technical requirements of the facilities.
The visitor's curiosity and interest are piqued from the moment they enter the facility. By opening up the hall towards the pools, the spatial and functional organization of the architectural ensemble is clear at a glance. Different colours clearly define the functional spaces: white for the pool decks and hallways, grey and white for the bleachers and changing rooms, and blue for the pools, outline areas of circulation, sport and rest.