The Camp-de-Touage Service Center in Pointe-Taillon National Park in Saint-Henri-de-Taillon, Canada, was designed to educate the public about the natural environment and the history of the land in which it was placed. Blouin Tardif Architectes along with Eric Painchaud and Associates had a challenge set out for them to create a building worthy of being in the national park to help preserve it historically and environmentally. Here’s how they did it.

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Aerial view of the national park and service center

The designers worked with the Société des Établissements de Plein Air du Québec, a government agency that manages parks, to create a building that made a connection between history, nature and education by creating a structure that magnifies the territory it sits on. Designers wanted to ensure this building would connect people with nature and would also be sustainable and develop the territories and public assets where it sits.

Related: 600 acres of land will turn into a climate-adaptive park

Aerial view of the center looking down at its roof

The historic Tow Camp located on this site was founded as a towing station for the logging industry working upriver of the Saguenay River mouth. Because of the history of this region, the boom, a symbolic structure used for log driving and logging, inspired the shape of this project.

Wood deck and path up to the center

“The concepts of the protective screen, footbridge, observation point, light filter, and expression of the [boom] structure are all avenues of development that have led to a sober and coherent architectural party that meets the technical and functional considerations of the reception pavilion for the benefit of its users’ experiences,” the architects explain.

A wooden walkway to the service center

The new center serves as a reception area for users of the park. Moreover, the parking lot, bike path and pedestrian paths all route through this central location at the mouth of the park. A pavilion form both served as a good structure for this purpose and also suited the topography of the site and the preservation of native plants nearby.

The wooden walkway illuminated at night

An outdoor covered walkway wraps around the structure to guide visitors inside while providing passive ventilation. Visitors walk a winding path through different spaces in the building, including reception, a boutique, an equipment rental area, a veranda and a service area for campers. The walkway eventually turns into a staircase that links the center to the camping area below. Further, the designers say that they created the center with this spiral pathway to mimic the way people discover a natural environment by exploring it.

A view inside the service center from the outside at night

A large overhang on the roof creates extra protection from both weather and delineates different uses of the space. On the one side, the canopy creates a safe space for gathering and relaxing in the shade. From the inside, openings framing the landscape create points of visual interest. So even from the inside of this visitors’ center, people are already discovering the outdoor landscapes here.

Another angle of the walkway and entrance at night

The center was designed for three-season use, so the entire structure, which includes window screens and roof overhangs, integrates passive ventilation and heating principles to save on energy consumption. Much of the pavilion is made of wood, in keeping with the rustic and simple surroundings.

The Camp-de-Touage Service Center uses a poetic style of architecture to suit its environment while leaving as small a footprint as possible on the natural landscape. Overall, the designers say that the center evokes territorial and historical references related to the log drive and forestry.

+ Blouin Tardif Architectes

Images via Stéphane Groleau