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Université du Québec à Montréal|uqam|

Salle de presse


Communiqués de presse


Dates: September 24 to November 22, 2020
Registration required from october 28
Opening: September 23 at 5 pm (online)
Curator: Jean-Pierre Chupin

In view of the new safety measures regarding exhibition spaces, UQAM Centre de design will be suspending its on-site activities up to and including November 23.

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September 2, 2020  ̶  The UQAM Centre de design is presenting Devoirs d’architecture: 6 Elementary School Competitions in Quebec, an exhibition that includes a series of projects designed for six competitions held in Quebec between 2019 and 2020.

The UQAM design Centre invited Jean-Pierre Chupin, professor at the University of Montreal, to act as curator for this exhibition, which presents the processes as well as the results of six architectural competitions on the design of primary schools. Five of these competitions were run by Lab-École for sites in five Quebec cities: Saguenay, Maskinongé, Shefford, Gatineau and Rimouski. The sixth, involving master’s students in architecture, was run by LEAP researchers (Laboratoire d’étude de l’architecture potentielle), under the direction of Anne Cormier, architect and professor at the University of Montreal, following a research-creation process aimed at exploring the interfaces between school and city.

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The exhibition
This rich group of projects produced both by teams of experienced architects and by architectural students, testifies to an immense capacity for analysis and invention in response to a stimulating and challenging problem: the design of elementary schools. Although essential, this subject has been mishandled by educational policies for decades.

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While no competition on the subject had been held for more than half a century, the problem of school buildings has resurfaced in recent years. It was introduced by a competition for primary schools in 1964, in the wake of the Parent report. Subsequently, the issue stagnated with a focus on management or on technological responses favouring the industrialization of school construction. "Successive governments have obviously not done their architectural homework," notes the exhibition curator. “The closure of schools imposed by the pandemic in 2020 has demonstrated the importance of the human dimension of pedagogy, a dimension that technology screens fail to convey. It also has revealed by default – to children, educators and parents alike – that the school is a collection of precious and irreplaceable physical places."

Contrary to the tendencies to normalize and standardize educational spaces, a comparison of the different competitions reveals that the architecture of primary schools should not be limited to models that are repeatable whatever the urban context. By inviting multiple comparisons between sites, between the expectations of the different actors, as well as an exploration of the variety of architectural proposals, the exhibition allows the school to be considered as a place to learn about that complex relationship to coexistence known as urban living.

Structured around four major themes, the exhibition addresses school in this relationship to urban living, because a school is also a small town in which meeting places, classrooms, collaborative spaces, and places for cooking and eating play a huge role in the various stages of learning.

Unlike virtual exchanges via screens, the instructions for creating places of learning cannot be standardized. Their design calls for various deliberations in order to produce the best design for a given urban context, through the expertise and creativity of the design teams.

The exhibition does not claim to offer a didactic discourse on the issue of schools. Nor is it simply a summary of all the consultations and design phases associated with the competitions. Instead, it invites the public to visually and intellectually immerse themselves in the complexity of the issue. Viewers will be able to imagine the intense debates of competition juries.

Competitions and consultation
The common point of all the projects presented is that they were designed in a competition context. This approach is based on a culture of participatory democracy and methods of judgment that are both qualitative and collective. Since there can be no single client for a primary school program, consultation must happen beforehand and continues throughout the process. In a competition, the "client" is always embodied by a jury made up of representatives and experts on the needs and issues.

From 2019 to 2020, more than 160 projects by professional firms, including 20 finalists, were submitted to the five Lab-École competitions, while five teams of master's students were selected to imagine the future places surrounding school buildings in the downtown area. As the exhibition cannot include all the details at the UQAM Design Centre, it is important to point out that all these projects have been systematically documented and are accessible online on the Canadian Competitions Catalogue database (, under the direction of the exhibition curator.

Biography of the curator
Professor at the University of Montreal School of Architecture, Jean-Pierre Chupin holds the Canada Research Chair in Architecture, Competitions and Mediations of Excellence ( He coordinates the inter-university team of the Laboratoire d’étude de l’architecture potentielle (LEAP). His research on analogical comparison was documented in Analogie et théorie en architecture : de la vie, de la ville et de la conception, même, republished in 2013 by Éditions suisses Infolio. Editor-in-chief of the Canadian Competitions Catalogue, he co-edited Architecture Competitions and the Production of Culture, Quality and Knowledge: An International Inquiry in 2015. He edited the first book spanning seventy years of competition in Canada in 2016: Competing for excellence in architecture: editorials of the Canadian Competitions Catalogue (2006-2016), published in English in 2017. In 2020, in collaboration with G. Stanley Collyer, he published on the CRC-ACME website in open-source: CRC-ACME : Young Architects in Competitions: When Competitions and a New Generation of Ideas Elevate Architectural Quality. With some twenty researchers from Canadian universities, he is currently constructing the Atlas of Excellence in Architecture from a historical inventory of more than 6,000 award-winning works in Canada (
The scientific direction of the exhibition was entrusted to Jean-Pierre Chupin, who benefited from the invaluable collaboration of Alexandra Paré, primary school teacher and doctoral student in architecture.

Founded in 2017, the Lab-École is a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring together multidisciplinary expertise to design the schools of tomorrow. Under the leadership of its three founding members, Pierre Thibault, Pierre Lavoie and Ricardo Larrivée, the Lab-École aims to transform this collective reflection into a social project. To achieve this goal, the organization combines the knowledge of teaching staff with that of specialists from other horizons to create the best schools in Quebec, schools that fully promote the well-being of students and those who work and live with them.

The Lab-École is a catalyst for innovative initiatives in the physical environment, healthy and active lifestyles, and food at school. In keeping with the "laboratory" spirit, its operation is open and flexible, focused on exploration and experimentation. The Lab-École carries out its projects in close collaboration with each school team and its community. The Lab-École supported the implementation of the first architectural competition in 50 years dedicated to school design.

Le Laboratoire d’étude de l’architecture potentielle (LEAP)
Anne Cormier is an architect, co-founder of Atelier Big City and a professor at the University of Montreal. She is a member of LEAP. This laboratory, which includes twelve researchers from four Montreal universities, has helped train more than 180 emerging researchers. At the crossroads of the disciplines of architecture, art history, design and semiotics, this research program considers the architecture of places from the point of view of the potentiality of the projects, that is to say from the perspective of the design processes and their social and cultural implications, rather than solely from the persepctive of the constructed buildings.

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UQAM Centre de design
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