In our contemporary lives, the boundary between work and private life is becoming increasingly blurred. This condition applies all the more to artists, whose lifestyles often stray from these arbitrary conventions. While this proximity, this ease of passage between everyday life and creation can be fertile and stimulating, a context where there is no longer any distinction between work and everyday life is not. The prospect of a total universe, where one can work, eat, sleep, rest in a single building, without ever having to set foot outside, seems to us potentially stifling. We therefore deliberately took the opposite view of the PFT's programmatic blockage and proposed two distinct buildings instead of a single functional assembly.
The separation of the program into two entities, one linked to the work of the material and the other to the daily life of the artists and the Est-Nord-Est team, allows us to punctuate the natural cycles of creation with crossings, however brief, of the exterior landscape. These breaths mark a very real psychological separation between the two poles of activity, allowing us to reconnect with the landscape, the climate, the light of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. They make us take note of the blazing sun or the seizing cold, the shape of the clouds or the starry night. This situation is more akin to the current living conditions of the artists, who share a house in a remote location, and travel to work in the studios.
This separation of the program in two allows us to give very different characters to the two buildings. The first, placed at the head of the lot, houses the personal and common studios. In the tradition of industrial hangars, it is a steel building, which is extremely rational and durable. Simple and quick to erect, it would be easy to modify over time thanks to its modularity and repetitive framework. The second building, at the bottom of the lot, groups together the artists' studios, the common spaces, the administration offices and the multipurpose room. It is a wooden building with a more intimate and warm character, closer conceptually to a large house than to an institutional building. It offers a rich and complex spatiality that makes the most of its verticality.
The clear separation offers several advantages in our eyes. In addition to the psychological factors, it prevents contamination of the living spaces by noise, dust, vibrations, odors and fumes. It also allows the two entities to operate in parallel, usually on different schedules. The two buildings can truly express their specific nature and thus avoid the impression of living in a workshop or working in a house.
After the division of the program into two entities, our second choice is to detach ourselves from the proposed jointness with Pierre Bourgault's studio, and instead to create a clearance between the two buildings. Although the common ownership allows us to free up some land space, the gesture seems to us to be contrary to the logic of implantation found on Gaspé Street where each building has its autonomy and its clearances in relation to the others. Moreover, it is difficult to foresee what will happen to this already old building in the future. If a partial demolition or a change of morphology of Mr. Bourgault's workshop were to take place, the new building on the east-north-east side would suddenly have a form that would be difficult to justify. By uncoupling the two entities and distancing them enough from each other to have their own living space, we ensure a harmonious relationship, now, and in the long term.
By splitting the program in two and breaking away from the existing studio, we can create interesting visual relationships between the different objects. The Bourgault workshop, the barn and the houses form an interesting built landscape to highlight. The void between the buildings becomes a major element of the design and contributes to create a real richness and spatial complexity. In order to maximize the open space of the site, we designed the rear building to be three stories high. In addition to freeing up appropriable floor space for various activities, going up high allows for distant views such as those of the river to the north, but also those of the woodland and farmland to the south. These views will be particularly clear from the artists' studios on the third floor, and especially from the roof terrace, from which the entire immediate environment is overlooked.
The building containing the fabrication and individual studios is the one that interfaces with the city. With its two redents, it presents a profile that refers to the archetype of industrial "sheds", a typology often reappropriated by artists to transform it into workshops. With its strong and cut-out forms, the profile of the building is immediately recognizable and has a strong iconic potential. The wood workshop occupies the front portion of the building and thus becomes the artist center's showcase on the street, making an implicit nod to the woodworking culture of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli and the historical roots of Est-Nord-Est.
The building is clad in corrugated steel on all exterior surfaces, including the roofs. A few perforated corrugated steel accents cover portions of the glazing, filtering the view and producing a special glow at night. While industrial or agricultural buildings often use dark grey or galvanized finishes, we propose to use white to mark the appropriation of this vernacular material for a cultural project, white being the museum color par excellence. We can imagine the whiteness of the architecture blending with the snow of the landscape.
The top of the roof chapels is pierced by two long openings in a band allowing to get a second day light from the north. These openings maximize the ambient light in the studios and workshops and provide a diffuse light that better serves the artists' work. For reasons of economy, but also to better diffuse the light, these openings are closed with cellular polycarbonate panels instead of glass.
In addition to its formal interest seen from the outside, the shape of the roof offers generous interior spaces due to the double height developed by the slopes. In the artists' studios, we took advantage of this height to create a mezzanine that partially occupies the space above the corridor. In direct contact with the northern light, this mezzanine allows a second work area of a potentially different nature from the general studio space. The corridor retains occasional access to zenithal light through two large skylights connected to the polycarbonate strip.
A common room, of an informal nature, is proposed on the south side of the studios, in visual relation with the House. The intention is to provide a space of undefined nature, creatively appropriable by the artists. We feel it is crucial to provide some of this space throughout the project.
The building housing the living areas is placed at the back of the lot. This situation creates a real intimacy for the artists who are now far from the nuisances of the automobile: noise, unwanted lights, pollution. Considering the road, the parking lot and the heterogeneous building of Gaspé Street, the portion of the site located near the street is for us far from being the most beautiful. On the contrary, from their living spaces at the back, the artists can go out and immediately enjoy the most charming part of the landscape: the uncultivated field, the small wooded area leading to the creek, the pretty barn of the neighbors.
Formally, the juxtaposition of the wooden cube against the metal sloping roof of the studios evokes the change in programmatic nature between the two buildings. The signage, visible by day and illuminated at night, draws visitors into the heart of the project. Once their vehicle is parked in front, they will enjoy a short walk giving them the chance to appreciate the landscape and the spatial sequence of the buildings.
From the entrance lobby, one can either go directly to the staircase leading to the administration floor or to the residence floor, to the kitchen and common room or to the multi-purpose room. The first floor of the building is a suite of interconnected rooms, making the spatial experience much more expansive and fluid. The kitchen, for example, is directly adjacent to the common room, which in turn is largely open to the multi-purpose room, with an occlusion device that can completely close off this connection if necessary. The multi-purpose room has a double-height portion that allows for both the display of larger pieces and a high light entry.
The second floor contains the administration offices, the conference room and the documentation center, again closely interconnected spaces. The top floor is reserved for the resident artists' studios. A generous central space allows artists to share a collective space that is more private than the first floor common room. A staircase and a skylight/access hatch give us access to the roof terrace. From there, at more than 10m high, we dominate the environment and enjoy a panoramic view embracing the whole landscape.
Although extremely simple, the few landscaping gestures we propose are strongly structuring. First, instead of a traditional parking lot, we propose to use green pavers on the entire front portion of the site, which allows us to create the nine parking spaces requested while keeping a green, permeable and ecological surface. The east side of the site consists of a stone dust driveway. This driveway is not normally used by vehicles except for material deliveries and hypothetical emergency vehicle access. The party wall of Mr. Bourgault's workshop becomes a vegetative screen serving both to signal the side passage to the back of the lot, and to create a backdrop for views from the common and metal workshops. Finally, a cedar terrace at the rear creates an active bridge between the two buildings.
We made the choice to propose a more robust and durable steel structure than a wood structure for the workshop building. This choice can be made at additional superstructure costs. However, part of these costs are absorbed by the choice to leave all ceilings exposed and thus make significant savings in finishing. We also made some strategic choices in areas that do not directly benefit the architectural experience, such as infrastructure (invert and 140m2 less floor space) and mechanics (two simple air exchange systems vs. one centralized system). These savings allow us to reinject resources into the architectural quality: higher ceilings in the workshops, more generous windows, more comfortable radiant heating.
A strong bias
Our proposal for the East-Northeast artist residences is both simple and radical. The organization of the program into two distinct entities, the separation from the Bourgault studio, the addition of a third floor... these are all original choices that were not at the PFT, but which we are deeply convinced of. On the other hand, in order to ensure the technical and economic realism of the project, we made every effort to keep the architecture as simple and economical as possible.
We believe that the archetypal yet iconic form of the studio will fit the context while remaining a strong call for the recognition of Est-Nord-Est as a fundamental vector of cultural diffusion for the region. The residences, all of which are on high ground, also have a strong evocative potential. They offer a calm, inspiring living environment that strikes the right balance between community and individuality.
We developed this proposal to the best of our knowledge and imagination, but as in all competitions, our proposal was developed in a vacuum. It still lacks an important touch that can only enrich the project: an intense creative relationship with a client with a strong vision.
(Unofficial automated translation)
2.2.1- The proposal to divide the functions into two separate buildings was recognized as bold and worthy of consideration. It provoked several discussions, forcing ENE representatives to question their perception of their operations and the relationship they wish to maintain with the residents, now and in the future.
2.2.2- The concentration of the workshops in a separate building from the living, public and administrative spaces undeniably provides solutions to the problems of noise and dust. However, this separation proposal also has functional and operational disadvantages.
2.2.3- The architectural proposal, in spite of an efficient and rational functional distribution, does not suggest a particular richness of the place.
2.2.4- The proposal to integrate a mezzanine for each of the individual workshops was recognized as a clever way to enhance this workspace.
2.2.5- The integration with the surrounding context is questionable since the proposed volumetry is currently absent from the immediate landscape and refers more to an urban industrial architecture of another era than to an architectural language inspired by the surrounding context.
2.2.6- The positioning of the public spaces in the rear building and the absence of a strong main entrance do not contribute as much as desired to make the place inviting for the community. On the other hand, the position of the wood workshop in the front offers an interesting showcase even if it is not the only one representative of the artistic production inherent to ENE.
2.2.7- Some of the constructive elements, especially the inverted slope roofs, were perceived as a technically risky proposal, not making an essential contribution to the project.
2.2.8- In spite of the estimates submitted, the construction of two buildings with the duplication of mechanical equipment, vertical circulations and the multiplication of external walls raised doubts about the capacity to carry out the project within the established budgets. This proposal also raised doubts about the operating costs generated by the two buildings.
(From jury report)
(Unofficial automated translation)
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