Residence de l’Isle – revisiting the domestic architecture of the 1950s
Designed for a couple and their two children, Residence de l’Isle in Montreal, Canada, is a reinterpretation of modern American houses of the mid-20th century. This single-family home, built on the banks of a river in the northern suburbs of Montreal, is the result of an architectural conversation with the design work of the architects of that era. Hidden behind a row of tall, mature pines, the home’s positioning allows the existing natural vegetation to become an integral part of the project while optimising the tranquil views towards the water.
The house was designed by Chevalier Morales Architects, which was founded in 2005 by Stephan Chevalier and Sergio Morales. This firm strives to create contemporary architecture that is both sensitive and responsible. They continually re-examine their understanding of the larger context, and here they gave rise to a family home that is rooted in its own cultural territory.
The perfect square Revisiting some key architectural elements of modernism in a contemporary manner, the geometry of the floor and ceilings, the integrated wooden furniture and the masonry cladding have all been reimagined. The garage, a symbol of a time when suburbia and automobiles rhymed with progress and enthusiasm, is directly integrated into the house, which itself forms a perfect 10m square.
The question of privacy versus openings, which was a crucial element in the 1950s, enables a response that creates two rectangular courtyards. They are inserted into the volume, bringing natural light into the heart of the residence, while also integrating the backyard and the swimming pool.
These exterior spaces that are extruded from the initial mass also serve to define and structure the geometry of the interior space of the project. The 10m x 10m square is therefore in contact with an ordered exterior space placed in the foreground of the natural setting that remains intact beyond the boundaries of the house.
A variety of special experiences The positioning of the residence makes it possible to reintegrate the pre-existing alignments of the land and to therefore conserve as many existing trees as possible. Large coniferous trees were then planted in the heart of the first landscaped courtyard, which provides vehicular access.
The programmatic distribution of the interior spaces takes into consideration the relationship with the street and the river, the solar orientation and the specific needs of the inhabitants. Also, the living room space was lowered a few steps and a glass pavilion has been installed on the roof. While initially designed as a single-storey house, the pavilion creates a variety of spatial experiences.
Privacy with abundant vegetation The north-south axis of the project houses the more intimate spaces with the need for privacy, while the living spaces are spread out along the river, thereby creating a strong link with the daily evolution of the surrounding landscape.
The position of the garage makes it possible to minimise the presence of the residence to the street, while still creating a clear axis that marks the main entrance. It follows the same axis as the pre-existing access road, thus mitigating the impact on the site and its natural landscape. Abundant vegetation provides privacy for the residents, while offering a green and natural context for the neighbourhood.
Treatment of materials A palette of materials, matched to the colour of the natural tree bark, makes it possible to integrate the new tone-on-tone construction into its surroundings. Natural materials, including clay brick (wall), wood (soffit) and stone (flooring is natural), have been given preference. Brass accents have added to the project, as has metal cladding. On the front facade, a large bay window creates a visual flow through to the river while serving to accentuate the pavilion-like feel of the design.
The mezzanine space that allows residents to benefit from an additional view onto the river serves to accentuate the composition and break up the horizontality of the residence. Some areas of the roof are covered with a white granular membrane while others have been landscaped, offering a green and temperate environment for this level. The overall emphasis of a sustainable design approach is enhanced through the incorporation of geothermal wells that provide both heating and ventilation for the residence.
PROJECT FACT SHEET • Location: The northern suburbs of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. • Area: 580m². • Contractor: St-Laurent Construction. • Structural: Latéral. • Landscape: Fabrique de paysages. • Architectural team: Stephan Chevalier, principal, Sergio Morales, principal, Julie Rondeau, architect, Christian Aubin, architect, Ève Beaumont-Cousineau, architect.
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