A summer school in the Reford Gardens

In summer, take a course outside in the sun, by the sea or rather on the St. Lawrence River, at the heritage site of the Jardins de Métis. This is the extraordinary experience experienced by 15 students of the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture, Bachelor of Urban Design and Master’s degree in Planning, Option City, Territory and Landscape, from the University of Montreal.

From 5 to 12 August, this group had the opportunity to organize regional discovery tours and sightseeing upgrades in the MRC de La Mitis and to design gardens in the enchanting site of the Jardins de Métis.

Study in the heart of exceptional gardens

It is in the heart of some of the largest gardens in North America with thousands of plant species and several works of contemporary art that the students participated in this summer school. Gardens that this year the 150 . to emphasizee birthday of their founder, Elsie Reford.

“It is an extraordinary vegetation in a very special microclimate. The students dealt with different topics such as climate change, coastline erosion, vegetation adaptation, but also various regional issues,” says Marie Claude Massicotte, landscape architect and teacher at the head of this school or at the School of Urbanism and Landscape Architecture at the University of Amsterdam UdeM with a teaching assistant.

A fantastic experience that started three years ago

In 2019, the University’s Faculty of Environmental Design renewed its agreement with the Reford Gardens. A unique experience for classes that take many theoretical subjects, but rarely put into practice the knowledge gained to create gardens. For example, at the time, the students of the Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in Landscape Architecture formed different teams and worked on the concept “A garden is…”, with the idea of ​​​​designing a garden in the manner of an exquisite corpse. As in this surreal literary game where each attendee writes a word to compose a complete sentence, the different groups take turns bringing their touch to a garden. In this way the garden is led to a metamorphosis every year and especially developed.

In 2019, the first cohort worked intensively for 10 days to clear land to design a garden made up of plants and materials, all recycled elements from the Reford Gardens or the Reford Gardens International Garden Festival. Since then, some participants have returned every year to observe the garden they have been working on to see how it has evolved!

Due to the pandemic, this faculty workshop has been suspended in 2020 and 2021. It just resumed this year. The new cohort and the next one will thus supply the already established garden.

A new network with urban planning students

New this year: urban planning students have joined the summer school. Multidisciplinary teams have been formed in this way.

At the end of May, everyone gathered for two days for an ideation charrette about the attractions and issues of the region and the garden of 2019. “They had a common respect for their different fields of expertise. Urban design students addressed issues such as territorial and regulatory issues, while those in landscape architecture and the master City, Territory and Landscape focused on the intrinsic qualities of the site and the possibilities of conception and design on the ground. They came to a common vision of development, which is a great success”, emphasizes Marie Claude Massicotte.

“It has taught us to know our respective disciplines better. Ultimately, on both the landscape architects and urban planners’ sides, we had a better understanding of the problems and specific practices of each,” added Louis Blais, an architecture student.

Highlight the cultural and tourist circuits of the MRC de La Mitis

This year, new partnerships were forged with the MRC de La Mitis, mayors of neighboring municipalities, the Mitis River Regional Park, the Rimouski Regional Museum, the Maurice-Lamontagne Institute and the Université du Québec à Rimouski.

Students had access to data that allowed them to know the expectations of the region’s residents and visitors. They were also able to engage in dialogue with MRC de La Mitis mayors and Reford Gardens leaders to understand their needs.

“These meetings with the mayors of the MRC who introduced their city and territory to us were very stimulating from an urban planning point of view,” says Eve-Marie Castilloux, urban planning student.

Following these meetings, the group drew up a development plan with cultural, environmental and tourism circuits to highlight, which was presented at the Reford Gardens on 11 August.

“This workshop was an opportunity to experiment with landscape architecture and urbanism in the field in a very short time, from planning to completion. Students can plan, arrange, design, make presentations, as well as work in the field, so plant plants, dig paths. It also gives them the chance to see the project they have planned, implemented,” says Marie Claude Massicotte.

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