A circular economy prototype on an upcycled landscape

A circular economy prototype on an upcycled landscape

A legacy project of the City of Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations, Frédéric-Back Park is a transformative work of environmental rehabilitation located at the heart of the 192-hectare Complexe environnemental de Saint-Michel (CESM). Originally a vast tract of agricultural land, this area in Montreal’s Saint-Michel neighbourhood was used as a calcium quarry and a landfill for decades. The site’s makeover began in the mid-1990s, leading up to the present day’s upcycled solution to significant environmental challenges.

A massive site that includes a composting area, a leachate treatment centre, a tree nursery, and an energy plant that converts the biogas it produces into electricity, it’s one of the most ambitious urban rehabilitation projects of its kind in North America. As some 40 million tonnes of waste is camouflaged below ground which continues to generate ground instability and fumes, 250 biogas-capturing wells with protective casings designed in collaboration with Morelli Designers were installed.

Their spherical shape allows them to adapt to the movement of soil below them, and their phosphorescent glass fibre membranes absorb sunlight to create a soft, surreal glow in the evening, creating a new landscape of otherworldliness. Inviting physical interaction by retaining patterns drawn on them using light sources, the orbs are at home at the heart of this vast space, nestled in tall, windswept grass and other indigenous plants that make up the park’s sustainable and biodiverse ecosystem.

A range of giant outdoor furniture emphasizes the sheer size of the site, while a hilltop offers a peerless panorama of the park, Montreal and its north shore. As Frédéric-Back Park represents a sweeping recovery of land, our team developed a renewed concept which, in a wink at the park’s past, is grounded in the principles of re-use and recycling. These themes informed the site’s wayfinding, signage and lighting strategies in turn, as well as its interpretive programs.

Today, Frédéric-Back Park is the backdrop for an array of activities as well as relaxing in its surreal landscape.


Awards and mentions

Winner in the Urban Furniture category for their unique design of biogas-capturing well
Grands Prix du Design