By Eleonora Cugurullo…
Blouin Tardif Architecture-Environnement (BTAE) was founded in 2005 by Jean Tardif and Alexandre Blouin, with the purpose of creating high quality design based on durability, performance and esthetics. The firm’s work consists of bold volumes and a dexterous use of materials to create efficacious results, where design respects the surrounding environment.
The Terre et Eau Residence (Soil and Water Residence) in Rigaud, Québec just west of Montréal, is a splendid example of BTAE’s architectural principles. The private house experimented with the client’s desire to merge traditional Mexican inspired design, with the architects’ will to obtain a LEED® Canada certification.
The house revolves around an internal patio, a typical element in Mexican Vernacular architecture. The two large volumes provide different functions. One acts as a circulation area to reach the living spaces; pleasant winter-garden, where the vegetation and water features reinforce the relationship with the external green. The other acts as a passive solar heating device, which takes advantage of the building’s orientation thereby accumulating heat during the day, releasing it to other parts of the house at night. The traditional Mexican element became part of the architectural vision to create a self-sufficient residence, where all other volumes are disposed to maximize solar gain, while ensuring the best views of the landscape.
Another nod to Mexican vernacular architecture can be found in the use of bright colours, both interior and exterior. Red and orange tones, accompanied by a contrasting glossy black, create an energetic interior mood. The façade plays a symphony of forms and shapes, its finishes prefabricated fibre cement panels installed in a vertical pattern.
The construction materials were selected from the start to be mostly prefabricated, a choice which facilitated construction time and workload, guarantying durability and a reduction of waste. The fibre cement panels especially helped to reduce time waste because of the precision of assemblage details on site. It is ironic to notice how these elements, often considered esthetically unattractive, are instead use to obtain a pleasant final result.
The garden landscape supports indigenous vegetation, and emphasizes the presence of soil, its permeability and erosion control. The soil and the water theme carries through to the interior, where pools and ground are mixed with a controlled balance, and the color palettes make the house organic in appearance.
In terms of the environmental impact, the project reached the goal of being energy self-sufficient by using geothermic and thermal solar collectors. All of the internal rooms, indoor and outdoor pools and domestic water are autonomously heated.
With the adept use of materials and passive solar techniques, the private house obtained an Energuide 92 rating and an airtightness three times superior than normal. It also obtained a LEED® Canada for Homes certification.
BTAE consider Terre et Eau to be a success. It is the result of them reaching out of their comfort zone to confront new needs and thematics desired by the client. An example for both professionals and clients, on the possibilities derived from peculiar challenges and how to work towards the balance between environmental respect and the esthetics.
Eleonora Cugurullo is an Italian architect with a MSc in sustainable design from the University of Edinburgh.