© Raphaël Thibodeau
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An ode to Montréal’s residential heritage
Montréal is known for its lively neighborhoods and its traditional streets, lined with two- and three-story row houses. Often raised in the early half of the 20th Century, these homes no longer conform to today’s lifestyles. In the hope of perpetuating this urban heritage, a number of architects are now attempting to give these homes a fresh lease on life.
Newly refurbished, the BRICK HOUSE is situated on de Gaspé Street, near the famous Jean-Talon Market. The in-depth transformation bears the signature of Natalie Dionne Architecture. The program involved turning what was formerly a three-unit building into a generous single-family home. Interiors were opened up, light was drawn in, and the yard was changed into a convivial room.
The architectural intervention is simply understood from the rear of the building. Although their initial intention was to retain the façade’s vital elements, the architects had no option but to replace the brick entirely. This provided them the opportunity to incorporate more large openings to the exterior wall. In keeping with the prevailing typology, four elongated windows were inserted on the upper floor, where the original openings had been. Carefully aligned with the new windows, two sets of folding doors run across the kitchen and the dining area.
A centrally placed chimney, no longer in usage, turns into an esthetical object, which reinforces the composition of the symmetrical façade while adding a touch of fantasy to it. With its brick, left apparent inside and outside, the chimney becomes a connection between the past and the present, the old and the new.
The ground floor was revamped into a huge living area while the upstairs was redesigned to accommodate three bedrooms and a spacious bathroom area. The architects’ most theatrical expression was to introduce a two-story volume above the dining space. As a result of this change, the master bedroom and the upstairs bathroom appear to be floating over the ground floor. A small “balcony” was inserted between both volumes.
Interior openings create a series of unexpected views towards the dining area, the backyard and the nearby alley. The precise positioning of the upstairs partitions ensured fluidity and transparency from one space to another. Skylights installed in early times on the roof were totally revamped bringing natural light over the central staircase and the upstairs bathroom.
The strong presence of brick, concrete and wood surfaces contrast with the white walls. The texture of the chimney and the dark shades of walnut floors and furnishings provide warmth to the space. Calm and harmony is maintained in the contemporary interiors with the choice of noble materials.
The continuous floor in the kitchen and dining area is polished concrete, which fuses into the stone pavers of the adjoining terrace when windows fold open. The backyard thus becomes an integral part of the home’s living spaces, especially during the lengthy summer nights when family and friends rally around.
The traditional shed fades into the perimeter fence, its grey tone recalling the nearby terrace. Freed from built elements, the yard is ready to be changed into a fantastic flower garden or vegetable plots. The back alley, another one of this neighborhood features, is accessed through a large sliding door.
The BRICK HOUSE is meant as an ode to Montréal’s rich residential heritage. It explains how traditional houses found ubiquitously in Montréal can be modified to new realities. It also is a virtuoso demonstration of Natalie Dionne Architecture’s ability to make architecture a true celebration of space and light.