Best Offices Ottawa: A modern community meeting place

Confluence Architecture remodels iconic Gatineau farmers market
Confluence
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by Confluence ArchitectureCheck out the full Best Offices Ottawa publication here 

If you’ve ever driven through Old Gatineau, you likely came across the Marché Notre-Dame. The red, open-air wood beam structure was hard to miss, boasting colourful murals on the back building and occasionally housing local vendors selling fruit, vegetables and other artisanal goods.

ConfluenceWhen the city of Gatineau set out to revitalize a portion of the Rue Notre Dame in 2018, updating the local market space was a key pillar in the plan. After putting out a request for proposal, the city awarded the project to Confluence Architecture, formerly Mercier Pfalzgraf Architectes, a Gatineau-based firm known for its thoughtful and sustainable approach to design. 

“In terms of architecture, they wanted something innovative, contemporary and yet coherent with the surrounding area,” says Vincent Renaud, partner at Confluence Architecture. “As the first step in the rejuvenation process, they also wanted to demonstrate to the community that they were aiming high with this project.”  

Working closely with the city and community representatives, Confluence Architecture replaced the aging A-frame structure with a modern, glass-encased building that not only pays homage to the original marketplace, but better serves the community and its goals. 

A natural design approach

Drawing inspiration from the original structure, Confluence Architecture created a glue-laminated timber structure, wrapped in aluminium siding that mimics the look of wood. Floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides of the structure offer sweeping views of the streetscape, and flood the space with natural light – an important factor in keeping with the spirit of a farmers market. 

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“By creating an enclosed space, it gives the community the ability to utilize the building year round, but it was important that the space still felt open and natural,” says Renaud.

For added visual interest on the front of the building, a wrap-around wooden sunshade was constructed, framing the large windows and marking a terrace around the building. 

At the back of the new structure sits an original piece of the Marché Notre-Dame, which Confluence Architecture committed to incorporating with the new design to preserve aspects of its historical significance.Confluence

Although marrying the two could have posed a challenge, the team found a workaround by maintaining a cross section of the original structure and connecting the buildings with a new roof. 

“We wanted to capture the essence of the space by using a lot of wood to connect the old and the new,” he says. “It provides continuity with what was there before.”

The spirit of the Marché Notre-Dame is carried through inside the new building as well, with large, structural wood beams becoming an instant focal point in the space, mimicking the rhythm of the booths at the market. 

confluenceDesigned to serve as both a retail space for artisanal goods, an event space and a bistro – outfitted with a modern, open-concept kitchen and pizza oven – Confluence Architecture sought to strike a balance between elevated finishings and natural elements that would ground the space. 

An unobstructed sightline flows down the middle of the room, which is meant to evoke the feeling of walking through the vendor stalls, says Renaud, while polished concrete floors carry throughout the main seating area and retail space, reminiscent of the pavement which lined the market. 

“The space has a signature feel that flows through the entire building,” he says. “Using sustainable materials was really important to bridge the inside with the outdoor space and make it feel cohesive.”

Confluence

A new era

While the team at Confluence are renowned for helping companies evolve their spaces, the Gatineau architecture firm recently underwent its own transformation, rebranding the business from Mercier Pfalzgraf Architectes to Confluence Architecture. 

Under the leadership of Renaud and fellow partner Lino Alves, the pair decided to bring the firm into a new era following the retirement of former owners Mercier and Pfalzgraf. 

“We believe architecture has a role to play in shaping our environment, and we incorporate that into every project we work on,” says Alves. “The firm needed to reflect that approach to community building as we look to take on new projects and challenges.”

The pair landed on Confluence Architecture as not only a reflection of their design approach, but as a geographical marker for the firm. Translating to the meeting of two rivers, Renaud says it represents the work the team does in both Gatineau and Ontario – a bridging of the communities. 

“Architecture is technical but there is a real beauty in how it serves the community,” he adds. “We look forward to continuing to merge functionality and design in every project we touch.”

OTHER FEATURED PROJECTS 

PLACE DU MARCHÉMarche

As part of this project, Confluence Architecture revisited the traditional typology of commercial buildings. The team’s intervention is manifested through a dynamic geometry and a play on materials that aims to break up the volumes and emphasize the angles on the street corner.

In order to amplify this urban positioning, Confluence Architecture gave each of the buildings a pergola that provides cover for an outdoor public space. These dramatic and uplifting pergolas, designed with offset surfaces, generate excitement and curiosity, completing the intended dynamism for the entire project.

 

TFO

TFOAs part of a collaboration between TFO Groupe Media and La Cité, space was made available for TFO to move their Ottawa office and audiovisual production activities to La Cité’s Aviation Parkway campus.

The space is divided by a street-like corridor that isolates the TV studio, AV-mixing room, and sound booth on one side while meeting rooms and open workspaces are located on the other. The fit-up provides a diversity of ambiances and collaboration opportunities while preserving all existing production operations including equipment storage, server room, typical office spaces and a kitchenette.