- Written by Stephanie Schroeder - filed under Project Feature, Press Release, Design Ideas, Designer Spotlight, Innovative Designs, What's New.

Award winning Parc Saint Joseph / Photo credit – Michelle Anne Storey


Valérie Bouré, a landscape architect for the city of Montreal and part of the three-person team behind the design of Parc St. Joseph, is riding high from two recent awards. The space (which features Goric’s dynamic playground equipment) has been recognized for its accessible, inclusive design and also won an award in the public sector category. But, in addition to the industry accolades, the park has received rave reviews from the most influential experts she can think of: children and their families.


Children and families of all backgrounds were at the center of every design decision the team made to realize the vision of Parc St. Joseph. One of the city’s main objectives for the project was to create a space that was accessible to all, so the natural solution was to involve people in the community by seeking their input.  Valérie and her fellow architects Samantha Frey Laporte and Kim Lapointe turned to Étoile de Pacho, a group of parents who use their knowledge of raising children with disabilities to help others in the same situation.


“The first thing we had to do was partner with a group of people who knew about the experience and understand children with diverse needs,” Valérie said. “They are living it, and I think beginning there was the best decision. They were invaluable.”


Calm surroundings and mature trees limit sensory and anxiety triggers for children / Photo credit – JFOKane


Valérie and her team collaborated with Étoile de Pacho to discuss their requests and ideas, covering everything from bathroom requirements to the location and desired park features. After extensively researching and analyzing four different locations, they decided on Parc St. Joseph because of how many boxes it checked to ensure the safety of those who would be using it–emotionally, mentally and physically.


“The fact that there was a school right next to it and it wasn’t on a busy street helped in choosing the spot,” Valérie said. “We wanted to make a park for all kinds of kids, with all kinds of disabilities, for all kinds of ages, plus their families so that adults could enjoy it, too.”


Parc St. Joseph also was ideal because of its natural, calm surroundings and mature trees, which limit sensory and anxiety triggers for children. It came with a parking lot, a detail that allows families whose children use wheelchairs easy access in and out.


But, despite its long list of positive traits, the location was not void of challenges. To start, the terrain had a number of hills because it is a revived wasteland. It is a site that used to be a school; when it was demolished, an oil tank remained and contaminated a small section of soil. But, instead of being deterred by the challenges, the team used them to their advantage.

Integrating Goric’s unique play structures in to the slope has lead to more creative and dynamic play / Photo credit – JFOKane


“The spill is where the water park is now,” Valérie explained. “We removed some of the soil because of the contaminants. The rest of the soil that wasn’t contaminated was reused to build the volcano-shaped mountain on the playground, which is one of the park’s most popular features. The one negative element we had with the hills made us turn the slopes into a positive one, making more movement and creating more dynamic play.”


Dynamic play is indeed happening at Parc St. Joseph. This colorful, idyllic space offers visitors many different sensory experiences. It features several pieces of Goric’s innovative play equipment, including a water table, two slides, EPDM half balls, and a waterfall.


“Goric’s structures fitted the design we wanted to have,” Valérie said. “We wanted to include industrial designs as well as create balance with colorful, playful elements. Goric offered us different dimensions and play levels that other more standard designs couldn’t.”

Goric’s stainless steel slides are ideal for children who are hearing impaired / Photo credit – JFOKane


In addition to the physical traits, the team again relied on Étoile de Pacho to provide guidance on how to make the park a welcoming environment for kids of all backgrounds. For example, Goric’s stainless steel slides are ideal for children who are hearing impaired.


“Regular slides can create static electricity that impacts children who have hearing loss,” Valérie said. “In addition to it being uncomfortable when they feel the shock, it can also compromise and damage a cochlear implant.”


Additionally, for children who experience anxiety, there are nooks inside the park where they can feel safe and calm down. Color choices also were important; the paths are orange to indicate that it is safe to walk, and blue indicates more active areas, which is helpful for children who have vision differences. In the bathrooms, they have adult-sized changing tables to accommodate older children. Every part is accessible since the surface is made of rubber, and there are no stairs, which allows children who are in wheelchairs to be included in every element.


Valérie knows that the space is one where kids of all ages can use their imaginations, because she has seen first-hand how people use it–even her own kids, who are 6 and 10.


“Kids create their own stories when they play in that park, and I think that’s the element that I like the most,” she said. “They’re able to play fully and have new ideas every time we go. It’s not always the same thing.”

The park’s water feature in particular has created opportunities for older children to play with younger kids / Photo credit JFOKane



She also has noticed that the space has brought people together in the community in a big way–the water feature in particular has created opportunities for older children to play with younger kids.


“It’s fun to see kids of every age use it, especially in the summer,” she continues. “The bigger kids that are on top put the smaller kids on top of the table and then play with them. I think that’s a big hit.”


The park has won two design awards and continues to be a source of inspiration for parks in surrounding cities / Photo credit – Michelle Anne Storey



The park is such a big hit that it has earned her team and the city of Montreal two design awards. But, to Valérie, the most gratifying feeling is when she gets a phone call from someone in another city, asking for guidance.


“Other cities call us to help them do something similar or to get inspiration from our parks,” she said. “Three years later, we’re still talking about it, and people still want to understand what we did and then how we did it. I think that’s the most rewarding part of the process.”

Inspiring play beyond Montreal sounds like a prize in and of itself.