The Marguerite d’Youville School project was one of the 2020 Lab-École competition’s laureates and was the grand winner in the Unbuilt project category at the AZ Awards by Azure magazine in 2021. The program consisted of a new 3440m² construction on the current site of the Marguerite-D’Youville school, near the downtown core of Saguenay’s Chicoutimi district. The new school will include 15 classrooms; 3 for pre-school and 12 for elementary classrooms. The program also includes other facilities like gymnasiums, spaces for collaboration and dining areas.
The proposal aims to reflect a typical Saguenay living environment, a village strongly intertwined with its natural environment, anchored in the culture of its residents. The building is divided into distinct houses, arranged around an outdoor courtyard connected by glass passages. The design intends to deconstruct the style of the conventional school and transpose it onto a livable scale, that is accessible and a better environment for the children. The school uses a characteristic pedagogical approach, described using the term ‘nurture’, lending a reassuring and familiar architecture to it.
The architectural project celebrates a thoughtful connection with the territory by inspiring itself from vernacular architecture and the use of regional materials, raw or recycled, that encourage a circular economy. The structural framework of the smaller houses is made of wood, the shared areas use a system of laminated-bonded wooden beams. The wood from local sawmills is highlighted by both the interior and exterior coatings. This material, with its delicate aesthetic, will bring warmth and acoustic comfort to the children.
Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean being the cradle of the aluminium industry, the project aimed to use this resource for multiple purposes, such as for pouring the concrete foundations and the floor slabs. The valorisation of residual aluminium waste for the construction of the cement paste allows a more sustainable cement to be obtained. The reuse of wooden beams, recycled from the existing school, will be used in the delivery of raw materials, to build the exterior furnishings.
Hydronic radiating floor will be used for the heating and cooling for the building. New air will be distributed through a ventilation principle, allowing for the totality of diffusers to be integrated within the architectural elements. The building envelope’s excellent performance, coupled with passive bioclimatic strategies, provides reduced capacity, lower cost and completely integrated heating and cooling systems. The characteristics of passive design reinforce the school’s biophilic approach: favouring solar light, allowing each room’s windows to be opened, etc.