The Experience Chute
Drawing on the existing character of the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, the new Experience Chute pavilion and walkway showcases the park’s 83m high waterfall and the scenic surroundings to its 800,000+ yearly visitors.
Daoust Lestage created an intervention that acknowledges the program defined by Sépaq, while responding harmoniously with the site: “The project seeks to assert its own personality in harmony with the genius loci of the site from the scale of the overall design language down to the specific resolution of the detailed components,” says the designers.
The overall vision is rooted in the historical richness of the site, while differentiating itself from the top of the cliff. The upper plateau of the waterfall is still associated with one of the great English estates that overlooked St. Lawrence in the 19th century through the presence of the Manoir Montmorency.
The overall project is divided into two sub-sectors: the visitor reception area, and the experience chute area. The visitor reception area is located south of the Chemin de fer Charlevoix and aims to redefine the entrance route, and the experience chute area, located north of the railroad tracks, allows visitors to approach the waterfall and complete a four-segment tour around the river basin.
The Welcome Pavilion defines the western segment of the path around the Montmorency Basin and marks the entry point to the Experience Chute. The new pavilion is located on a gentle slope towards the basin and is designed to respect the sensitive environment of the river shoreline and its flora.
Built on the site of an abandoned electrical substation, the pavilion serves as a landmark and focal point for visitors. Expressing a third dimension in the landscape, its minimalist steel structure – devoid of vertical bracing through the skillful integration of rigid frames – features a canopy cantilevering towards the water, emphasizing the horizontality of the construction and framing views of the landscape.
The assembly details of this structure have been finely studied to conceal both the structural and drainage requirements of the roof. The waterproofing of the roof is contained within the thickness of the structure and is clad in whitewashed wood siding; a texture referencing the Manor’s cladding that characterizes the historic estate of the upper plateau of the Falls. The roof is a single, continuous plane; the pergola of the cantilever allows for a play of light and shadow on the ground that changes with the hours and seasons.
The wooden boardwalks of the Nature Path are adjacent to the pavilion; they hover on stilts, minimizing their impact on the environment. The lamination and tectonics of the boardwalks is inspired both by the iconography of log piles that accumulated at the base of the falls during the log drives, but also by the stacks that characterized the sawmill landscape of the last century. The forest, surrounding the pavilion and its paths, is enhanced by the planting of native trees and shrubs.
The Contemplative Footbridge is a part of the Experience Chute that, like the project as a whole, is intended to resonate with the loci of the site.
The widening and enhancement of the existing bridge that ran parallel to the railway bridge over the river also responds to a programmatic challenge.
During the summer season, many groups of tourists visit the site and have only a few moments to appreciate the magnitude and spectacle of this natural wonder: the original 2-metre-wide pedestrian bridge offered a privileged view of the waterfall and was used as an observation point by many visitors, creating a bottleneck to pedestrian traffic crossing the river. The widening of the bridge to 5.5 metres, and creation of terracing levels, offers both a walkway space above and a belvedere space below, allowing visitors to stop, sit and contemplate the waterfall while others flow through.
The form and the architectural treatment of the new footbridge are directly inspired by the spirit of the place in addition to skillfully responding to numerous structural constraints. The footbridge seeks to evoke, for the visitor, the dominant characteristics of the iconography of the site – the industrial landscape of the 19th century sawmills.
The wood siding and the geometric laminations are inspired by the wood piles and the log drive that characterized the past landscape, and are paired with the nearly immaterial plane of the ultra-clear glass guardrails.
Experience Chute – Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, Quebec City, Quebec
Société des établissements
de plein air du Québec (Sépaq)
Architecture, urban design and landscape
Daoust Lestage Lizotte Stecker
Structure et electricity
Civil et environment
Fourniture et installation des verres