Not all glass houses are cre­ated equal. This one, out­side Mon­treal, is an en­ergy-ef­fi­cient marvel

Azure - - CONTENTS - Text by David Theodore Pho­tog­ra­phy by Adrien Wil­liams

Daoust Lestage’s glass house out­side Mon­treal is an en­ergy-ef­fi­cient marvel By David Theodore

Pav­il­lon du Lac plunges vis­i­tors into na­ture.

It is al­most noth­ing: two squar­ish white slabs, a roof and a floor, all of which hover in the for­est. The in­door liv­ing ar­eas are sand­wiched in be­tween, pro­tected only by floor-to-ceil­ing glass. Built on the edge of a lake, Pav­il­lon serves as a lux­u­ri­ously min­i­mal 115-square-me­tre guest house for a fam­ily liv­ing near Mon­treal. “We pushed a lot to get pu­rity and sim­plic­ity,” says Renée Daoust, prin­ci­pal of Daoust Lestage.

The guest house in­vokes the tra­di­tion of the ru­ral glass house, one of ar­chi­tec­ture’s great con­tri­bu­tions to mod­ern life. The lin­eage in­cludes Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House near Chicago and Philip John­son’s iconic Glass House in Con­necti­cut. But the Pav­il­lon up­dates the clas­sics in sev­eral ways. For ex­am­ple, Daoust’s ex­per­tise in sus­tain­able de­sign makes a sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ence. The win­dows are triple glazed for bet­ter cli­mate con­trol, and, be­cause the land­scape rolls gen­tly down to the lake, the floor slab is raised a me­tre off the ground, al­low­ing the to­pog­ra­phy to run un­der­neath. The house is topped with a green roof seeded with na­tive plants, so that when vis­i­tors ap­proach from above, the struc­ture blends into the fo­liage.

“The large over­hangs help re­duce di­rect sun­light, too,” notes Daoust.

Still, the ar­chi­tects had to con­vince lo­cal au­thor­i­ties that the de­sign was ap­pro­pri­ate.

Its foun­da­tion sits on the traces of a small cot­tage, so the owner had the right to build close to the lake. The ar­chi­tects then ar­gued that a glass fa­cade would fit into the sur­round­ings by mir­ror­ing and mim­ick­ing na­ture. In the end, even the au­thor­i­ties agreed. “When they came for the fi­nal in­spec­tion,” says

Daoust, “they were very, very pleased.”

Daoust Lestage is best known for such ma­jor ur­ban projects as Prom­e­nade Sa­muel– De Cham­plain in Que­bec City, the Quartier des Spec­ta­cles in Mon­treal, and the up­com­ing $5-bil­lion Eglin­ton Crosstown light rail sys­tem in Toronto. They work “from city to ob­ject,” col­lab­o­rat­ing as a mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary team to ad­dress de­sign at all scales. Daoust es­ti­mates that they get to do a house about ev­ery three years. “It’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing to have these kinds of projects once in a while, given how chal­leng­ing the prac­tice is these days,” says Daoust. “It was a labour of love, from client to con­trac­tor.”

The main chal­lenge of the project was to make the slabs ap­pear to hover. The roof is held up by slen­der, white-painted steel col­umns, and, on the out­side, the roof edge is sheathed in re­flec­tive alu­minum pan­els. The pol­ished white con­crete floor flows con­tin­u­ously from in­side to out, form­ing an L-shaped porch, and then de­scends to­ward the lake in the form of a pre­fab­ri­cated float­ing stair. At night the light­ing bounces off the con­crete floor and white-painted plas­ter­board ceil­ing, mak­ing the build­ing glow like a camp­fire in the for­est. “It works even bet­ter than we ex­pected,” says Daoust. A black slate slab and crushed slate com­plete the land­scap­ing.

In­side, the floor plan is sim­ple: kitchen and liv­ing ar­eas on one side, two be­d­rooms on the other. In be­tween, me­chan­i­cal ser­vices and a bath­room are neatly con­tained within teak cab­i­nets, with ad­di­tional equip­ment tucked into the base­ment. The mill­work stops 61 cen­time­tres be­low the ceil­ing, where the ar­chi­tects have in­stalled frame­less, ul­tra-clear glass pan­els for sound iso­la­tion. This is a de­sign where ev­ery de­tail counts. There are pre­cise tracks in the ceil­ing for shades, and lin­ear ven­ti­la­tion grills are re­cessed in the floor. Like­wise, all of the door and win­dow frames are in­stalled flush with both floor and ceil­ing; im­mense piv­ot­ing and slid­ing doors span the full 2.9 me­tres. These de­tails em­pha­size the mu­ta­ble prop­er­ties of glass – re­flect­ing, trans­par­ent, shim­mer­ing or still – and to­gether work to project the house’s oc­cu­pants into the sur­round­ing land­scape, as if the ar­chi­tec­ture had dis­ap­peared into the for­est. At dusk or dawn, the sight must be breath­tak­ing.

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