Architecture & Interior Design – Olivier Bourgeois and Régis Lechasseur of Bourgeois/Lechasseur architectes both grew up in relatively remote rural locations in Québec, Canada. Their 951 sqm Center Est-Nord-Est house in the quiet village of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli is “reminiscent of traditional barns and evolved quite naturally from our experience to marry tradition and contemporary architecture.”
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Saint-Jean-Port-Joli is known for its longstanding woodcarving tradition and has been a rallying point for artists from various locations around the world. “The building serves as a new facility open to artists looking for inspiration along the St. Lawrence river.”
The front entrance is off the main highway, delicately inserted in the narrow wood-lined façade. Once passed the door, a surprisingly exuberant double height volume awaits visitors, staff and residents alike. This multifunctional space, the true heart of the project, serves as meeting point, lounge, exhibition area, community kitchen, and dining room.
Once inside, one accesses a quieter library zone via a voluptuously curved spiral staircase. Carefully framed skylights are carved out of the sloping ceiling, flooding the upper level with natural light while the main floor is mostly lit through large openings giving to an adjacent court.
The residents’ combined work and living quarters are located towards the back of the building. “Key to the concept was the design of five identical, yet flexible, live-in studios with sleeping mezzanines.” As floor requirements vary widely from one discipline to another, the expandable workspace was planned to be highly flexible and adaptable to individual pursuits whether sculpture, performance art, photography or others.
Individual studios are reached through a central corridor, which isolates them from the livelier public areas towards the front. Three shared workshops – wood, metal and assembly – are also located along the corridor.
Locally harvested white cedar was used for the exterior cladding while sheet metal protects the huge sloping roofs, reminders of farm buildings in rural Québec. Given the institution’s modest budget, interior finishes are mostly plywood, gypsum boards and polished concrete. Acoustically treated gypsum panels were installed on some of the angled ceilings to keep sound reverberation to a minimum.
“We looked for simple, inventive solutions in order to create the best possible environment for artists.” Adds Olivier Bourgeois. “For this project we gave considerable thought to natural light and to material conditions conducive to reflection, quiet stimulation and experimentation.”
The region’s artistic community and the village of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli in particular were given a true surge of vitality with the recent inauguration of Centre Est-Nord-Est. With its timeless image the vibrant new facility can now easily compete with the most desirable institutions of this type in today’s art world.
All photos by Adrien Williams – Courtesy of Bourgeois/Lechasseur architectes.