Gatineau Park is a 361-square-kilometre conservation park, stretching roughly 50 kilometres northwest from downtown Ottawa. The park is a valuable ecological and recreational resource that receives 2.6 million visits made by tourists and local residents each year. The Visitor Centre is the primary arrival and information point for park visitors, as well as the administrative and operational hub for NCC staff. It is located at 33 Scott Road in the village of Old Chelsea, Quebec, 16 kilometres north of downtown Ottawa. The current visitor centre is at the end of its life cycle. The building was converted from an old administrative/garage facility in the late 1990s, and the building systems are inefficient and costly to operate. Some portions of the site are contaminated from prior uses. In addition to these issues, the vast number of visitors each year contribute to traffic congestion in the village and throughout the park.

Over the coming years, the NCC will build a new visitor centre to improve the visitor experience, and resolve transportation and operational challenges. The new visitor centre will serve as a year-round facility, and must facilitate access to park services and resources, while enabling sustainable transportation solutions. It is assumed that future public transit will be extended to the Visitor Centre from downtown Ottawa, and opportunities should be explored to reduce motor vehicle traffic and promote active transportation. The site should accommodate visitors arriving by car and provide a jumping-off point to explore the park by foot, bike, ski or other sustainable modes of transportation. The site program must include a new 2,000-square-metre building capable of accommodating visitor reception and information, nature and cultural exhibits, meeting rooms, staff offices, and park operational needs. 

Part of the building program may include an Indigenous centre, and approximately 150 square metres should be reserved for such a use. The building must respond to the unique natural setting, and should conserve and enhance the natural topography and vegetation, where possible. It is assumed that the new building will be serviced with municipal water and sewer connections. The building must demonstrate excellence in eco-design principles, and should lead by example by targeting net-zero construction and operating standards. The site must also include multi-purpose outdoor gathering spaces for cultural and programming needs.

A number of relevant resources, plans and background studies are available in the reference section.

The challenge:

How can a new Gatineau Park Visitor Centre better accommodate and serve park users?

Proposals should:

  • Create a new iconic landmark building at the entrance to Gatineau Park that showcases the NCC’s commitment to environmental sustainability, Indigenous reconciliation and design excellence
  • Provide enhanced visitor reception services, and support sustainable transportation options to recreational facilities throughout the park
  • Respect the surrounding natural ecology and meet best practices for environmentally sustainable building design and construction
  • Contribute to the reduction of traffic congestion at the intersection of Old Chelsea, Scott and Kingsmere
  • Reserve a space for an Indigenous cultural centre that showcases Indigenous design, and includes meeting, exhibit and retail space

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