Student: Samuel Lepage
Advisor: Nik Luka
Studio: Directed Research Project
Year/Term: Fall 2015
With this thesis project I adopt a camp/trans-inspired attitude towards conservation of conventional built heritage as a way to question and challenge some of the usual processes defining the established “good practice” of conservation. Through this exercise, I demonstrate the application of an approach I conceptualized this summer that distances itself from the protective and romanticizing ideologies currently guiding practice by seeing conservation as an opportunity to model, interpret and curate a transing heritage body.
The framework I have put together can be summarized by three main principles characterizing a “camp” sensibility. The first principle is liminality, which implies that transformation is no longer seen as a threat to heritage values, but as a good opportunity for growth and improvement through which a body (building) is actualized vis-à-vis its context. The transformations relate to the existing body. It translates in the production of frivolous reinterpretations of architecturally relevant forms so that a creative process is generated from the existing body and results in a taste for the artificial in which difference of materials and contemporary technologies are celebrated rather than subordinated to the existing. It also involves playfully-inverted situations that provides users with a certain distance vis-à-vis the transformed building so they can observe simultaneously what it used to be and what it has become – the body’s previous and present narratives.
This experiment is carried on the former Hôpital de la Miséricorde located at the eastern end of Montreal’s downtown area. Commissioned in 1853 by the Nuns of Mercy to the architect Victor Bourgeau, the building is a progressively built ensemble of pavilions that expanded following the growth of the religious mission to provide support for vulnerable populations. The initial convent evolved over the years to host a hospice for unwed mothers, an orphanage, a nursing school, a maternity hospital and clinic. The Building became a government property in 1973 and was adapted into a long-term care facility and a day clinic until declared structurally unsafe and shut down in the early 2000’s.
The project inserts a new program to revive the relevance of the building in its context transforming it into a Campus of Public Health. Taking advantage of the newly-erected CHUM nearby, my proposition groups on a single site the Directeur de la Santé Publique de Montréal, the Institut Nationale de la Santé Publique du Québec, as well as the Faculty of Public Health of the Université de Montréal, which would bring a potential population of 1500 students and experts in public health to this vacated historic building on a daily basis.