Info & Images: Courtesy Thomas Balaban Architecte |
Located in Quebec’s up and coming Southwest neighbourhood, this 300 sq. m. detached house hides a rich spatial complexity behind its tough working-class façade…
Turning to the neighbourhood’s post-war veteran’s home as its formal point of departure, the architect firm Thomas Balaban Architecte have set out to make a house that simultaneously fits in and stands out from its heterogeneous context, without resorting to mimicry and without sacrificing the contemporary nature of the project. The principal challenge lay in bringing light to the living spaces given the tight nature of the plot and the availability of direct sunlight limited to its centre. By flipping the traditional vertical hierarchy found in most two-storey homes, and by carving out a series of spaces from the structure's volume, the project addresses the need for exposure to direct light and the mandatory need for privacy. One of its most striking features is the staggered central outdoor courtyard, created to funnel light all the way down to the home’s lowest level. All the rooms have access to this central space. Full-height windows at different levels provide a theatrical quality to the courtyard space and maintain a feeling of being lived in, with the homeowners aware of each other’s movement throughout the house.
The spatial transparency and open central nature of the courtyard allow for a deep penetration of natural light and for efficient natural ventilation and movement of air in the protected microclimate, contributing to passive solar energy. Running parallel to the courtyard, the stacked staircases combined with a north-facing opening at the top, provide a cooling chimney effect inside the house. The house maximizes south-facing glazing for direct solar gain in winter, and limits glazing on the north façade. The radiant concrete floors also serve as a small thermal mass helping to mitigate exterior temperature fluctuations.
Externally, the house is restrained, light and monochromatic, emphasizing overall form over components and details. A standing-seam aluminium cladding in a natural colour unifies the shape of the home, serving as both, roofing and wall cladding. Flat concrete panels painted to match the colour of the metal cladding become subtle accents around doors and windows. In contrast to the cool vertical surfaces, the many terraces are clad in warm Ipé decking, highlighting the outdoor extensions of the living spaces. In sharp contrast to the spatial complexity created by the central courtyard, the interior is also kept uniform, strategically articulated with warm touches appearing in the millwork and central stair. Pale, matt-polished concrete floors and unarticulated white walls create the perfect backdrop for the homeowners’ collection of art and design objects. The kitchen is simply organized around two elements - the island and the storage wall– both constructed from the same material: heat-treated white oak. The rich chocolate colour of the wood cuts itself out from the white walls and pale grey floor.
Moments of contrasting exuberance are also offered via the darker, graphic tones of the bathrooms and in the changing vegetation visible through the windows, perforating the exterior of the house. These architectural moments contribute to the house’s sense of theatricality. Fittingly, the home is the recipient of the Residential Space 1,600-3,200 ft2 Award at Québec's Grands Prix du Design 2014. Click here to view the images on indiaartndesign.com
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