The French River marks the transition to the Canadian Shield, a landscape of granite scrapped bare by the passage of glaciers. In its descent from its headwaters, the River transforms from a fractured granite gorge, into a vast delta of sculpted granite islands and outcrops. Designated as Canada’s first Heritage Waterway, the River served as a trade route between First Peoples, and for Europeans, was the primary route for inland exploration of the continent and as the “Voyageurs’ Highway”. It has been a primary source of uniquely Canadian mythology, inspiring native pictographs and European depictions of heroic river journeys, and contemporary work from the Group of Seven. The project establishes an architecture of the River, defining and invoking its physical qualities and cultural legacy through an integrated approach to architecture, landscape and exhibit environments. Moving beyond the role of container, the project embraces its condition as a place of passage, and is itself an expedition; through its siting, organization, views and exhibition, and as a responsible construction in nature. Flowing across an archetypal landscape of rock and water, visitor experience is organized along a continuously inclined topography of found and constructed elements that establish an interpretive and spatial armature for the project, which interprets the River’s descent from its headwaters at Lake Nippissing to its delta at Georgian Bay.
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