The UQAM Centre de design is presenting Devoirs d’architecture: 6 Elementary School Competitions in Quebec. The exhibition includes the winning designs for six competitions held in Quebec between 2019 and 2020.
Curated by Jean-Pierre Chupin, professor at the University of Montreal, the exhibition presents the processes as well as the results of six architectural designs of primary schools. Five of these competitions were run by Lab-École for sites in Saguenay, Maskinongé, Shefford, Gatineau and Rimouski.
The sixth, involving master’s students in architecture, was run by LEAP researchers (Laboratoire d’étude de l’architecture potentielle), under the direction of Anne Cormier, architect and professor at the University of Montreal, following a research-creation process aimed at exploring the interfaces between school and city.
The exhibition testifies to an immense capacity for analysis and invention in response to the challenges of designing elementary schools. No competition on the subject had been held for more than half a century. In 1964, the Parent report led to a competition for primary schools, but subsequently, the issue stagnated with a focus on management or on technological responses favouring the standardization of school construction.
“Successive governments have obviously not done their architectural homework,” says Chupin. “The closure of schools imposed by the pandemic in 2020 has demonstrated the importance of the human dimension of pedagogy, a dimension that technology screens fail to convey. It also has revealed by default – to children, educators and parents alike – that the school is a collection of precious and irreplaceable physical places.”
A comparison of the different competitions reveals that the architecture of primary schools should not be limited to models that are repeatable. By inviting multiple comparisons between sites, the expectations of the different actors, as well as an exploration of the variety of architectural proposals, the exhibition allows the school to be considered as a place to learn about urban living.
The common point of all the projects presented is that they were designed in a competition context. This approach is based on a culture of participatory democracy and methods of judgment that are both qualitative and collective.
According to the UQAM Centre de design, the exhibition does not claim to offer a didactic discourse on the issue of schools, nor is it simply a summary of all the consultations and design phases associated with the competitions. Instead, it invites the public to visually and intellectually immerse themselves in the complexity of the issue.
All projects have been systematically documented and are accessible online on the Canadian Competitions Catalogue database, under the direction of the exhibition curator.