Whether visiting alone, with a large group of guests or as a family, the owners were looking for a relaxed, welcoming environment, conceptually similar to a cottage yet more refined, particularly in the relationships among spaces and between people. The goal was to have a present, living and enthusiastic architecture that engages the senses.
The design process, grounded in the setting, symbiosis with the site and a reduced environmental footprint, led to a reflection process on the functional elements and their optimization.
The functions are divided into two types. Minimalist spaces housing functions requiring built-in elements or greater privacy are clustered on the north side. A “maximal” space, containing all other functions, occupies the south side and allows free use of the space, open to interpretation and transformation.
Bleacher-style benches, meeting at right angles, are built into the main space. They are simultaneously oversized furniture, an agora, a circulation area, filters, dividers, bookshelves, structural elements, etc. They can be modified in three ways: as movable blocks that can be rearranged at will (for use as end tables, backrests, steps, etc.), as intermediate levels attached to the main structure but capable of being reconfigured regularly and, collectively, as benches resting on the concrete slab, which can be reassembled in an entirely different way.
On the south and west faces respectively, the benches are at ground level. Their incline extends the site’s topography to the inside of the house, thereby accentuating it. As a result, spaces are defined in a more or less porous manner. At the top the benches make it possible to enjoy the view while maintaining physical and visual continuity with the ground. Near the kitchen, the benches become both food preparation areas and tables seating up to eight people.
The bench system is modular, and most of its constituent elements are standardized.
Senses and perception
Contrasts, ambiances, materiality, lighting quality and modulated contact with the outside come together to create sensory experiences.
As if suspended between treetops, nature’s immanent spectacle takes place. In this observatory, the impression is both of being protected and projected. Both solemn and spiritual, the house comes to life and becomes something entirely different when several people are present. The agora layout is well suited to interaction. A fireplace, movie projector and feather cushions help people enjoy the space.
The space below is introverted and dense. Its light, filtered by the benches, is complex and ever-changing. Its many thin columns resemble trees in the forest.
The minimal spaces are embracing and almost cave-like with their soft, dark, rich finishes.
At first glance, the difference between natural and built forms is highlighted. The close links uniting the architecture with nature emerge through ambiances, relationships, mimetic qualities, materials and light.
From the site-selection phase, optimizing bioclimatic potential was one of the project goals. By building the structure with a fully south-facing façade, the arrangement of the parcel made it possible to make the most of a set of windows with a fine view that maximize passive solar heating. A large overhang, designed to make use of the changing angle of the sun, prevents overheating in summer while admitting as much winter sunlight as possible.
The building’s elevated position and its orientation allow effective natural ventilation. Front windows that open at the bottom and rear windows that open at the top promote cross-drafts and take advantage of differential pressure.
With its cube shape and advantageous ratio of envelope to usable volume, the structure promotes energy efficiency and economical use of materials. The shape also made a smaller footprint possible.
The white cedar tongue-and-groove siding, sourced from a local sawmill, was left in its natural state.
Location: Chertsey, Canada
Area: 80 sqm. (140 sqm. floor area)
Team: Sylvain Bilodeau, Nicolas Mathieu-Tremblay
Photographs: James Brittain Photography