The Story

The former St.Charles church sits on a large lot in a predominantly French-Canadian neighbourhood in Ottawa’s Vanier neighbourhood. For over 100 years the church was an important gathering place for the communities that surrounded it. As a sign of the times, the church closed it doors in 2011 and was deconsecrated in 2013.

This is a development project with the aim to reimagine the purpose of the church building and add density to its surrounding property. A significant challenge and a great opportunity for us in the design is the Heritage status of the building. Its three exterior walls and iconic bell tower are protected and cannot be altered. Working with such constraints required much more creativity. As a result, we proposed that the main church building be repurposed as a year-round, indoor food market and restaurant. In addition, the new design also includes spaces for an ice cream shop, a coffee shop and one or two small local retailers. The intent was to find new ways to continue St. Charles Market’s legacy as a hub for area residents while also attracting visitors from other neighbourhoods.

Surrounding the church, there will be a series of 54 “horizontal homes”; 51 condos and 3 town homes will wrap along the side and back of the church. These single-floor living spaces are designed to be just as comfortable and spacious as single-family dwellings. The kitchen and living spaces are full-sized rather than “condo” sized, offer plenty of storage and the Master bedrooms have room for a King-sized bed with two side tables.

Stylistically the design took some cues from the church, like the pitch of the roof and the colours from the stained glass. It was important that the new building pay respect to the old church but that it also be a beautiful structure in its own right. We introduced some innovative and unusual materials like the terracotta cladding and referenced elements of the church in the details. For instance taking the shape of the circular window in the church and stamping it onto the metal railings in the balconies.

A particularly special architectural feature is the “Starry Night Wall”. It’s made-up of seemingly random windows, some are backlit and others simply transparent. The wall acts as a beautiful backdrop to the church and creates an intimate and unexpected patio space below.

The overall master plan for the site also maintains a significant amount of outdoor public space that includes: an outdoor sculpture garden and park, patios, seating and space for a seasonal al fresco farmer’s market.

We also worked with the developers to introduce automated parking or, a “puzzle-parking” system for the project. This technology has been around for decades but is very new to Canada. It requires less excavation and building materials and provides leading-edge technology for residents.

CREDITS
Developer: ModBox Inc.
Project Manager & General Contractor: The Lake Partnership