The presbytery, the mayor, the library and the public square
One cannot talk about the new public square in Montmagny without referring to the new library built previously, whose intention was always to create a connection between downtown Montmagny and the wooded park. These two elements, the city and the park, also informed the design of a project that will accompany visitors on their journey between the two. Montmagny is located about 60 km from Quebec City, on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, and is crossed by the South River into which the small Bras-Saint-Nicolas River flows. These two tributaries feed a nearby waterfall that flows into the St. Lawrence River. The city's relationship with the river is special. Mainly bordered by shops, its shoreline is part of Montmagny's identity, as the river is an integral part of the region's history. The banks of the St. Lawrence River come alive, in autumn, with thousands of snow geese, the same ones that so moved the painter Jean-Paul Riopelle, who settled in the region near the end of his life. "A flock of snow geese is order in disorder," said this essential artist who has left his mark on the imagination of the region. His presence is still felt in the heritage he left the region, like a small workshop located near the library. The new library embraces the heart of the city, close to the church, the town hall, the public market, the main shopping street and the park. It is a landmark, forward-looking, open and welcoming to all. Adding to the existing presbytery, its new part recycles a heritage building and flagship site of the city of Montmagny. Slightly set back from the street, the library frees up a small public space at the front, and also extends its presence from the park, via a pedestrian promenade that combines architecture and landscape. This walk, covered with a long canopy and overlooking an imposing bay window, showcases the children's reading area inside and is the main point of contact among all public actors. As it expands outward, it becomes the city's meeting place, a landmark, a stage and a place for social exchanges. The library forces the visitor, user and passer-by to interact with, question and explore their environment. The outdoor stage is inspired by it, leaning into it and giving it space. It was challenging to integrate this large-scale technical facility, which had to be read in the background, as part of an approach based on respect, dialogue and appropriation. The strategies developed aimed to encourage adoption of the facility by the population. Not only did the stage have to meet specific performance requirements, it had to provide support for this public space on a daily basis. Carried out within a limited budget, the project had to support various community activities. The concealment of technical equipment was therefore an important and unusual challenge for the facility’s staging, imposing architectural simplicity and accessibility. The stage therefore opens onto the public square, its steps inviting for users. It allows young people to climb onto it, groups to settle in; it leaves room for improvisation; it is appropriate. Like the library, the project is restrained and articulated. Covered in a white wooden box, it embodies our understanding of the City of Montmagny, its history, identity, landscape, artists and community. Its whiteness testifies both to the magic of the great flocks of geese flying over the river, and to the local domestic architecture marked by its white, streamlined volumes. Inside, a natural wooden volume is revealed, unfolding onto the ground and extending outward to welcome users onto its wooden benches integrated with the square. The whole creates a harmonious dialogue, in continuity with the library and the buildings around it.