Saint-Joseph Refuge

Take the time to truly live, feel, contemplate, and raise awareness on the conservation of territories threatened by human presence through to a mountain refuge built from a container.

Contemplating the intrinsic qualities of a site in the soothing silence of a natural national park setting is a welcome pause from today’s fast-paced world, an opportunity to bask in the freedom of vastness. The creation of an architectural project becomes a landmark on the territory, influencing the way it is discovered and experienced. In this regard, how can architecture be used as a pillar for the development of regions and their parks, raise visitors’ awareness, and enhance the contemplation of magnificent landscapes without hindering the conservation of their ecosystems? In this specific context, the architectural statement had to strike a balance between nature and culture, between conservation and showcasing. It had to find innovative and adapted solutions in order to reduce the anthropogenic impact of a new construction within a national park, while allowing for the creation of indoor and outdoor spaces endowed with novel aesthetics conducive to contemplation and the development of a sense of belonging to this public space among visitors.      

Here, the role of architecture was to highlight the daytime and nocturnal environment by playing with natural light, openings, panoramas, and different perspectives on the boreal forest and granitic outcrops. Thus, the Mont Saint-Joseph Refuge results from a holistic understanding of the project’s context and a sensitive reading of the natural and rugged landscape of its setting.

Date : 2019
Place : Mont-Mégantic National Parc, Canada
Surface : 16 m2

Client : SÉPAQ

Phase : Built
Photos : Marilène Blain-Sabourin et SÉPAQ

The project proposes a contemplative, ecologicalarchitecture that is respectful of the environment in which it lies.

To achieve this, giving a second life to a container no longer utilized by the park and located at the base of the mountain certainly represented an ideal opportunity. However, it also included a set of limited and rigid dimensions which guided the project’s design. Nestled, much like a black box, at the mountain’s summit, its insertion in nature will vary with the seasons and sunlight fluctuations. Perfectly integrated within its environment in summer months, the refuge will become more and more prominent as the seasons unfold and become most visible during winter. Given how black is easy to spot against the white coat that is characteristic of snowy summits, this contrast will highlight the building while celebrating the natural environment of which it is part. Whether it is surrounded by an ocean of sparse clouds, a chain of green rolling mountains, a dizzying star-filled sky, syenite rock formations, a Nordic landscape, or shy sunbeams peeking at the crack of dawn, the building’s orientation and openings allow for breathtaking contemplation of nature‘s ephemeral pace.

Relying on the latter to dictate its placement, the project also drew inspiration from its environment for the selection of its materials and expression. The verticality of its outer surfaces sets the tone for the facades and adds dynamism to this rudimentary box. The resulting verticality and texture also add a certain subtlety and awareness reminiscent of the natural setting in which this box is perched. For its part, the contrast between the interior and exterior adds to the refuge’s simple and rustic indoor materiality.  


Architecture must not overtake a natural and cultural landscape, but rather result from it.