Even if transportation infrastructure involves a large portion of engineering, the architect brings the vision to the traveler level. (Image: 123RF)
Large-scale public transportation projects present complex challenges that only a multidisciplinary team can successfully address.
Anouk Boucher-Billon has specialized in the transportation field for about fifteen years. The Associate Architect at STGM Engineering, and a member of the Public Transport Experts Roster of the Quebec Transport Association (AQTR), works with colleagues on large-scale projects, such as the Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM) and the Quebec Tramway.
She is one of a handful of architects specializing in public transportation in Quebec.
For her, interdisciplinarity is an essential asset, even a “need.” “In this type of commission, each discipline has a piece of the puzzle and all the pieces must come together to form a cohesive whole, which is a cohesive project,” she explains.
When it comes to sustainable mobility, architects are part of the main team, which brings together many professionals, such as various engineers, city planners and estimators. “We support the client from the beginning in defining their needs and help them translate their intentions into words or drawings,” explains Anouk Boucher-Billon.
Beyond design, architects write performance estimates, accompany the client during the qualification call, and build and deploy the infrastructure. Their experience ensures continuity.
Even if transportation infrastructure involves a large portion of engineering, the architect brings the vision to the traveler level. “We have put a lot of effort into this. By addressing various architectural issues, our participation ensures the development of user-friendly infrastructures. We are trying to promote easy, reliable and safe travel, while integrating places into the living environment in an ideal way. »
Along the way, Anouk Boucher-Pilon does not hesitate to remind other stakeholders for whom they are building these projects. “From start to finish, you have to think about the user and how they move, whether in terms of signage, street furniture or security.”
Multiple details are under study
Anouk Boucher-Billon insists that restructuring the transport network is in itself a sustainable development project. “It allows us to move people around the city unlike cars, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We can also design buildings that have superior energy performance,” she explains.
The architect emphasizes that the main team approaches sustainable mobility projects in a broader way before focusing on the details. “We start by looking at the characteristics of the city, the main roads and the transportation that are already in place. Then, in collaboration with other stakeholders, we think about where we should place the stations, ideally near future real estate developments where there will be traffic. »
These decisions are made in discussion workshops, where everyone expresses the limitations and possibilities of their discipline. She believes that “this helps to embed the project in the urban fabric.” As a team, we discuss the advantages of different modes of transportation. Is it better to choose a bus system, a tram system, a metro system, or to have surface or underground stations? We analyze what is possible and optimal depending on the city. »
Different construction disciplines address different challenges. “During the technical design of a subway station, for example, technical engineering input leads to knowledge of the specific limitations of this type of work. The architect designs developments by working with these limitations, while trying to optimize them in order to achieve the best project.”
Collaboration between various experts makes it possible to improve infrastructure design by considering both the user and the community it serves, environmental feasibility and cost rationalization.
Built heritage, accessibility of spaces and history are all components the team takes into consideration. “When we work on urban mobility projects, we want to give an identity to the place and offer an architectural quality that will stand the test of time. All of these elements influence the structuring grid choices. Each component is inspired by the environment. So the solution will not be the same in Quebec and Montreal. »
In fact, the Quebec tram will be located in the city, surrounded by buildings with a history, recalls Anouk Boucher-Billon. The REM, built on Montreal’s south shore between the freeway lanes, does not fit at all into the same built environment. However, the two projects shape the cities of tomorrow.