Nighttime rendering of the complex glowing from the interior lights.

Complexe Aquatique de Laval


Laval, QC

Nestled into an existing forest and bathed in natural light, the Complex Aquatique de Laval immerses its users in nature, offering the community an accessible oasis at the edge of the city. Supporting both recreational and competitive events, its internal organization gives swimmers and spectators views of its natural wooded setting from all areas. The concept highlights the importance that maintaining and enhancing natural landscapes plays to the citizens of Laval and promotes wellbeing.

This project was a joint venture between hcma and NFOE.


Areas of impact

Design Response

The hcma and NFOE team submission was one of four shortlisted entries in this design competition.

Our competition-winning entry highlights its natural setting with a round form enveloped by forest, with skylights bringing natural light deep into the building, like sunlight dappled on the forest floor. The design was based on three primary objectives – maintaining the vitality of the site’s ecosystem as an essential part of the city’s network of forested areas, the immersive experience of a variety of swimming experiences within a forest, and developing a facility enhanced by the efficient use of resources.

We wanted the facility’s users to feel as if they’re immersed in nature, with each view point offering a unique perspective of the building’s surroundings. The second floor fitness area includes a roof garden which further connects the building to the forest, and brings natural light into the centre of the building.

But the project’s goals were technical too: aquatics programming was to meet stringent FINA standards to host regional, provincial and national sporting events in its competition and dive pools. It also included seating for up to 700 spectators, positioning the facility as a premier destination for competitive aquatic events. For wider community enjoyment, the programming included a recreational pool, hot pools, lazy river, and a fitness centre overlooking the natatorium.

The building is not “next to nature” it is part of it; its shape, structure, and skin designed to blur the boundaries between building and site. The project provides a positive response to the universal challenge of providing a truly civic response to a placeless suburban context. With its function, it is intended to be a catalyst for aquatic experiences, learnings, performances and social interactions for generations to come.

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