Posted at 7:00 am
Aware of the impact of lockdown restrictions on the health of their citizens, elected officials in Rennes, France have pulled off the feat of forcing architects to include balconies in their drawings. A measure aimed at the new reality of teleworking.
From now on, a “private outdoor space” of at least 4 m² must be provided for every new building. Apartments for seniors and students are particularly targeted. A measure described as “unprecedented” according to the municipality of Rennes, whose population is comparable to that of Quebec City.
“The health context, the restrictions, played a role in our decision, but also the development of slightly different lifestyles, such as teleworking,” summarized Laurence Besserve, vice-president of the Rennes metropolis in charge of development and “living space”. At the town hall, the head of the press service, Lucas Auffret, adds that the demographic forecasts are not unrelated to this shift.
According to the latest data from Rennes, presented during a wide public consultation for the adoption of a local intermunicipal urban plan (PLUi), the population will increase from 460,000 to 533,000 inhabitants by 2035, which will require the creation of 65,000 new homes.
In the middle of winter, on the corner of Robert-Bourassa and Ottawa streets, it’s hard to imagine what the ambitious nature-inspired real estate complex Odea Montréal will look like. Inspired by the forest.
But next spring, blueprints with Boreal, Laurentian, or Taiga finishes will begin to take shape. Mathieu Millette, architect and vice-president of the Cogir Group, believes that the balcony in Quebec has always been a must, ironically even for people who don’t use it.
The balcony is cultural. But a whole reflection started with the pandemic, the curfew, with retirement homes where entry and exit were controlled. This goes as far as the selection of antibacterial materials.
Mathieu Millette, architect and vice president of the Cogir Group
“And there’s a greater sensitivity to shared outdoor spaces. We can envision outdoor gyms being set up in building types where we have only seen indoor gyms,” he adds.
In that movement, the City of Montreal’s elected officials passed a document entitled Urban Project: Towards a Urban Planning and Mobility Plan. The blueprint will be used to dust off the current 2004 city map to define Montreal’s built future through 2050. The balconies will be part of the reflection, we are assured.
Robert Beaudry, responsible for urban planning and member of the executive board, explains that more than ever, the people of Montreal want complete living environments with green spaces, parks and shops. They want high-quality, affordable living space that is adapted to different needs.
“We have learned many lessons from the pandemic,” he said. We got closer, we saw a strong return of community, of sharing, more than ever neighborhood life has become indispensable. We have seen the strength of the mix of uses in the city, such as the populated downtown area, which has allowed us to climb back up the slope much faster than other major cities. All of this has exacerbated many of the needs that existed before the pandemic but have become essential to citizens. »
Montreal “Balcony City”
Philippe Lupien, architect and professor at the School of Design at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM), is passionate about the urban environment and points out that Montreal has long been nicknamed the “Balcony City”. This is especially true in relation to the many plexes equipped with a small spiral staircase that leads to a balcony, he specifies.
The specialist believes Montreal is reaching another level when it comes to balcony and landscaping. We are increasingly being inspired by grandiose projects such as the Bosco in Milan, known worldwide for its residential towers completely covered with vegetation.
“We see more and more loggias [balcons en partie couverts et encastrés], especially at altitude. More and more natural gas lines are being laid in new complexes to connect to the grill. I believe that we will see more and more pitched roofs, glass roofs and ecosystems integrated into buildings,” explains Mr. Lupien.
In Montreal, more than half (58%) of the population lives in apartment buildings, adds Montreal Urban Ecology Center (CEUM) Director-General Véronique Fournier. The President attended closely the European Public Participation Meetings that took place in the city of Rennes last autumn.
She believes that when constructing new buildings, a healthy living environment must be the focus. We must not neglect initiatives to combat heat islands.
“It is imperative for Montreal to look beyond the balcony, with urban development and access to green spaces, parks and neighborhood life. We don’t have a built environment like Rennes. With the pandemic, we learned, we opened bike lanes, parks, streets became pedestrians. Why not extend the reflection to achieve 30% green space? She asks.