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Imagining the Schools of Tomorrow

Imagining the Schools of Tomorrow, Together Architectural Design Competition: The Lab-École schools’ designs unveiled. 6 innovative primary school projects across Quebec

Gatineau – Interior perspective. Photo credit: DMA architectes

Today, it is with great pride that Lab-École is unveiling the architectural designs for the elementary schools to be expanded or built-in Gatineau, Maskinongé, Québec City, Saguenay, Shefford, and Rimouski. With the exception of the sketch for the Québec City school, which was produced by the Lab-École team, all of the winning designs stem from the “Imagining the Schools of Tomorrow, Together” architectural design competition launched by Lab-École. This was the first school building design competition to be held in Quebec in nearly 50 years. More than 160 proposals were received for the five school projects.

Saguenay – bleachers. Photo credit: Étienne Bernier architecture (EBA), APPAREIL Architecture et BGLA

Shefford – Interior view. Photo credit: Pelletier de Fontenay et Leclerc architectes

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lab-École made the decision in March to delay the public unveiling of the designs. It would like to once again congratulate the five winners: Étienne Bernier Architecture (EBA) + APPAREIL Architecture + BGLA (Saguenay Lab-École school); DMA Architectes (Gatineau Lab-École school); Pelletier de Fontenay + Leclerc Architectes (Shefford Lab-École school), L’ŒUF + Lapointe Magne & Associés (Rimouski Lab-École school); and Paquet-Taillefer + Leclerc Architectes (Maskinongé Lab-École school).

Maskinongé – Class views. Photo credit: Paquet – Taillefer et Leclerc architectes

Quebec – Interior view. Photo credit: Lab-École

“We felt that holding an architectural design competition was a logical way to keep up our innovative momentum. Competitions generate a wide variety of designs. They also help demonstrate Quebeckers’ immense creativity, which will be put in service of the educational sector. It was important for Lab-École to step off the beaten path and invite novelty. The impressive number of proposals we received also shows that Quebec architects want to contribute to these new living environments.”

—Pierre Thibault, architect and Lab-École co-founder

Gatineau – Exterior perspective – courtyard. Photo credit: DMA architectes

Maskinongé – Summer view. Photo credit: Paquet – Taillefer et Leclerc architectes

A new generation of schools that will form veritable living environments 

Lab-École schools will be true living environments that are caring, open to nature, and their community. They will offer more space and more flexibility, which will help the students learn better, be more active, and eat better. They will also offer bright gathering spaces and inviting dining halls. Wider hallways will form “learning alleyways” that facilitate teaching practices adapted to the needs of today’s students. The architects carefully designed these models in keeping with the school stakeholders’ expectations, giving each square meter of invested space meaning and ensuring optimal use of all the spaces from morning to evening. The designs are based on general guidelines and vital elements (ref. Imagining the Schools of Tomorrow, 2019) stemming from two years of intensive research-creation, consultations and the mobilization of hundreds of key players (teachers, architects, researchers, citizens, parents, daycare service representatives, municipal elected officials, organizations and more). Lab-École carried out this work to pave the way for a new generation of schools designed to meet the current and future needs of the students and the school staff accompanying them.

Shefford – Exterior summer view. Photo credit: Pelletier de Fontenay et Leclerc architectes

Rimouski – Interior view. Photo credit: L’ŒUF et Lapointe Magne et Associés

Saguenay – Exterior front view. Photo credit: Étienne Bernier architecture (EBA), APPAREIL Architecture et BGLA

“These schools will be a huge step forward. They are a far cry from the traditional two-storey boxes that currently exist. These are pavilion-style learning environments, with sloped roofs, more organic shapes, and other details. It’s a completely different approach. When the school stakeholders saw the designs, they were amazed that a school could look like that! They were deeply touched by the proposals submitted, imagining all the good they could bring the entire community.”

—Pierre Lavoie, athlete and Lab-École co-founder

Rimouski – Interior view. Photo credit: L’ŒUF et Lapointe Magne et Associés

Saguenay- Interior view. Photo credit: Étienne Bernier architecture (EBA), APPAREIL Architecture et BGLA

Quebec – Exterior front view. Photo credit: Lab-École

“What has been presented today is not only Lab-École’s vision, but the vision of the school communities that took part in this approach. The winners were able to skillfully integrate Lab-École’s different cornerstones: physical environment, healthy and active lifestyle, and nutrition. To the Quebeckers who answered the call and to the community stakeholders, we can never thank you enough for your dedication and open-mindedness. We have the skills to build the world’s most beautiful schools and the designs presented today prove it.” 

—Ricardo Larrivée, chef, entrepreneur and Lab-École co-founder

Gatineau – Exterior Perspective. Photo credit: Crédit photo :DMA architectes

Maskinongé – Winter view. Photo credit: Paquet – Taillefer et Leclerc architectes

Shefford – Exterior winter view. Photo credit: Pelletier de Fontenay et Leclerc architectes

“We showed the importance we place on beautiful educational institutions by announcing the government’s vision of a new generation of schools. I applaud the quality of the work carried out by everyone who submitted a proposal and congratulate the finalists and winners. Our schools need to be inspiring and these projects have proven to be original and representative of the 21st century.”

—Jean-François Roberge, Quebec Minister of Education

The 5 school service centres (formerly school boards), the Western Quebec School Board, the winning architectural firms, and Lab-École have been hard at work concretizing the projects over the last few months. In spite of the unexpected advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work is going well. The first Lab-École schools should be opening their doors for the fall 2022 semester. Any questions about enrolling children in these schools, the cost of any of the projects, and their construction schedule must be addressed directly to the school service centre or school board concerned.

Rimouski – Model. Photo credit: L’ŒUF et Lapointe Magne et Associés

To discover the six Lab-École schools  

All of the designs can be viewed on Lab-École’s website: lab-ecole.com, where you will find video clips presenting the six Lab-École schools, a catalog of Lab-École’s architectural design competition, data sheets on the projects and more. All 160 architectural design proposals can be found on the Canadian Competitions Catalogue website.

Lab-École would like to thank the school service centres and school board for their invaluable commitment. It would also like to thank, for their exceptional contribution: the jury members, Design Montréal, Denis Lemieux, Nicolas Marier, the MÉES’ representatives, and the hundreds of collaborators who have invested time and knowledge since Lab-École’s creation.

About Lab-École

  • Created in 2017 by Ricardo Larrivée, Pierre Lavoie and Pierre Thibault, Lab-École is a non-profit organization whose mission is to gather multidisciplinary expertise that will be used to design the schools of tomorrow; schools that meet the needs and reflect the realities of the students and those accompanying them.
  • Lab-École supported the launch of the first school building design competition to be held in 50 years. This competition grouped five elementary school expansion and construction projects.  The sketch of the Lab-École school in Québec City was produced by the Lab-École team
  • Lab-École’s work is based on the contributions made by the hundreds of experts and collaborators who have invested their time and knowledge since Lab-École’s creation.
  • The first Lab-École schools should be ready to welcome students for the fall 2022 semester.
  • Lab-École is financially supported in its mission by the Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement Supérieur

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