The Ursuline School Playground

Located in the heart of Old Quebec, the Ursuline Monastery is one of the few large conventual complexes dating from the establishment of the French colony beginning in the 17th century.

This National Historic Site has been dedicated to education since the arrival of a missionary group of Ursuline nuns in 1639 and its built and landscape components bear witness to the different phases of its evolution.

Photo credit: Deve Média

In keeping with its original vocation while meeting the needs of students attending the present-day elementary school, the Ursulines ceded part of their garden to enlarge the school’s playground.

In the fall of 2020, EVOQ’s Landscape and Urban Design Team undertook the playground’s redevelopment. Anchored in the site’s heritage value and its many unique features, the new installations establish a dynamic and sensitive dialogue with their context.

Photo credit: Deve Média

To preserve the integrity of the soil as well as the root systems of the mature trees, some of which trace their origins back to the 17th century, excavation operations were limited to the strict minimum. The design team worked closely with structural engineers to devise methods for anchoring playground infrastructure to the rock at the surface to avoid disturbing the soil while a team of archaeologists supervised the excavation work to ensure the preservation of artifacts discovered during previous digs. A new athletic track was strategically located to encircle and protect the nine apple trees of the old orchard, providing shade for users while commemorating the site’s rich landscape heritage.

Photo credit: Deve Média
Photo credit: Deve Média

The design team took advantage of the site’s vertical topography, spreading the various play areas over five levels. Rainwater catchment basins were strategically distributed between the different slopes to absorb rainwater in situ using infiltration and bioretention principles. This minimizes water runoff into the area’s sewer systems while maximizing the area available for the playground. Thus, the site’s perceived constraints were leveraged to create dynamic spaces for different activities while offering breathtaking views of Old Quebec.

In addition to the synthetic soccer surface, a variety of recreational and sports facilities were added including turnstile games, ball games and multisport surfaces. Stone steps follow and structure the natural slope of the field, providing a space conducive to outdoor educational activities.

Photo credit: Deve Média

Technical sheet

Project name
The Ursuline School Playground (Cour de l’École des Ursulines de Québec)

Location 
The Ursuline School, Old-Quebec Campus
4 du Parloir Street
Québec (Québec) G1R 4M5
The school is located within:

  1. The Ursuline Monastery National Historic Site of Canada;
  2. The Historic District of Old Quebec, recognized on UNESCO’s World Heritage List
  3. The Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site of Canada

Client
The Ursuline Monastery of Quebec

Landscape Architect
EVOQ Architecture
Marie-France Turgeon, senior landscape architect
Cathy Perron, senior technician for landscape architecture

Project manager
Marie-France Turgeon, senior landscape architect

Engineer
Denis Pinard, Genio

Suppliers
Atmosphäre

Budget
721 521$

Project completion
October 2020

Photography
Dève Média

Construction contractor
Les mains vertes du paysage

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