Pierrefonds West is one of the last agricultural territories on the Island of Montreal. Located on the western end of the island, it includes protected woodlands, working farms, and natural wetlands and streams. Providing habitats to a wide variety of plants and animals, it is one of the most ecologically diverse areas on the island.
The Pierrefonds West Master Plan explores the idea of combining residential development with the conservation of this unique landscape. Conventional subdivisions absorb farmland in a manner not dissimilar to a military front, erasing traces of the agricultural past as they advance. The project imagines a less antagonistic relationship between farmland and suburb in which two mutually supportive realms blend into one another.
The plan is based on the transit-oriented development model. A corridor originally reserved for an expressway is dedicated to the construction of a light-rail train line, with a new station in Pierrefonds West. Located on the fringe of an adjacent suburban area, this transit node encourages the overlapping of existing and new neighbourhoods.
The geometry of the agricultural landscape, dating to Quebec’s origins as a French colony, structures the new plan. Features such as hedgerows, pastures, drainage ditches and access roads are conserved and rehabilitated as an armature for new development. Massing and volumes blend from a high density zone around the train station to unspoiled farmland on the opposite side of the development. Moving through the project, building heights and volumes become progressively less important as open spaces gradually assert their presence.
The natural collection of surface water was an important factor in the development of this project. The bulldozing and topographic erasure associated with conventional suburban development is tied directly to sub-surface water collection infrastructure. Replacing this infrastructure with the rehabilitation of existing streams and surface drainage presented both technical and cultural challenges.