Frédéric-Back Park

Photo © Adrien Williams
Photo © Adrien Williams
Photo © Adrien Williams
Photo © Ville de Montréal
Photo © Adrien Williams
Photo © Adrien Williams
Photo © Ville de Montréal
Photo © Lemay
Photo © Lemay
Photo © Ville de Montréal
2345 Rue Jarry E , H1Z 4P3 Montréal
City of Montreal
Urban Furniture - Design of biogas-capturing wells
Morelli Designer

Giving back: Parc Frédéric-Back

A legacy of the City of Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations, the award-winning Frédéric-Back Park brings magic and discovery to a massive former brownfield in the multi-ethnic neighbourhood of Saint-Michel.

The City’s planning and gradual restoration of the 17.7-hectare site, as part of a 153-hectare former limestone quarry and landfill, had already been underway for decades. And while marrying public space and 40 million tonnes of garbage may seem counter-intuitive, this pioneering project is sure to inspire others with its vision, ingenuity and overall impact.

Perhaps the project’s most unusual challenge was how to safely integrate the site’s 250 biogas-capturing wells, needed to manage the fumes still emanating from the grassed-covered landfill. Understandably, any solution needed to operate without sparks; to offer ample ventilation; to be easily monitored by workers daily; to adjust to the shifting terrain underneath; to resist tampering; and, perhaps the most challenging criterion of all, to be unique in the world.

It was Lemay’s team of landscape architects, in collaboration with Morelli, who conceived the design of the spherical casings that now compose the park’s signature. Made of phosphorescent fiberglass, they absorb sunlight during the day, and glow softly after dusk. They invite physical interaction by retaining patterns drawn on them using light sources.

The surreal orbs seem at home at the heart of a vast landscape, nestled among tall, windswept grasses and other indigenous plants that make up the intentionally sustainable and biodiverse ecosystem. A range of giant outdoor furniture (a six-person chaise longue!) emphasizes the sheer size of the site, while a hilltop offers a peerless panorama of the park, Montreal and its north shore. Lemay is responsible for the landscape architecture as well as a new brand image which, in a wink at the park’s past, is grounded in the principles of re-use and recycling. These themes, in turn, informed Lemay’s wayfinding, signage and lighting strategies for the site, as well as its interpretive program. The result is an evolving and whimsical spin on one of North America’s most ambitious urban rehabilitation projects.

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