By Phil Roberts…
When many people around the world think of one word to define Canada, that word is usually cold. It’s not cold all the time, but it can get cold. Canadians don’t complain about the cold, we complain when it gets too cold. Same could be said for snow. Montreal-based firm, APPAREIL architecture, embraces winter as a creative existing condition of each site and not a constraint.
In the early days of the firm, architect Kim Pariseau and her team travelled to Fogo Island, Newfoundland to visit the work of Todd Saunders, a Canadian-born Norway-based architect known for his firm’s Nordic projects. “APPAREIL architecture has as its mission to reflect on Nordic architecture in Quebec,” explains Kim. “That wonderful experience was quite instructive for my team and myself. Today, it serves as inspiration for most of our projects, and we speak about it regularly.”
In February 2012, APPAREIL collaborated with ATOMIC3 for ICEBERG, an installation for Le Quartier des spectacles of Montréal. Sound designer Jean-Sébastien Côté and Philippe Jean of Les Ateliers Numériques also collaborated in the work. ICEBERG was an allegory for climate change inspired by Nordic architecture, where a repetition of arches, light and sound caused Montrealers to reflect on the climate of the north in the middle of an urban plaza. “As in our other projects ICEBERG had as its goal to create an architectural experience based on a simplistic form and materials that would have an impact on the participants,” says Kim.
With their captivating videos about their projects, and creative use of posters, APPAREIL has built awareness about their young firm over several years.
“At APPAREIL, we think that people are drawn more to printed materials which hold their attention and are more interested in the information in front of their eyes on a tangible level,” describes Kim. “We made pamphlets and posters for Doors Open Montreal (2010 and 2013) which came in handy to build awareness of our work.”
One of their most recent projects is the Mètre Cube, a rethink of the classical Montreal duplex. Historically, these duplexes consisted of two load bearing walls, on two floors. “We decided to centralize the services in the center of the space, with the circulation around them in order to free up more space and simplify the structure,” explains Kim. “This minimalist approach created a luminous, open, living space.”
Built in 2006, the BORÉALE House in Sainte-Adèle, Québec was one of APPAREIL’s first projects where they reinterpret the traditional Quebec house. “Certain characteristics were preserved, but a contemporary aspect was added. From there we got the idea to integrate a sloped roof, to rework the entrance portico and add a rare veranda,” describes Kim. “South facing windows were added to capture more sunlight, with a concrete floor to absorb the heat and disperse it throughout the space.”
If Mètre Cube and BORÉALE House are evidence of APPAREIL’s deft impact on a small scale, then their proposal to suture a deep wound in the urban fabric of Montreal will surely be welcomed. The LOOP is the winning project for a Montreal competition of Champ-de-Mars organized by the City of Montréal.
The project consists of a public space devoted to the exploration of sound and light above the Ville-Marie, a sunken expressway underneath Downtown Montreal. The existing site has suffered as a non-place for decades and has been a jarring division between downtown and Old Montreal. “Our project proposed to reconnect the urban tissue by creating a place of convergence, not only between two neighbourhoods, but also vertically with subterranean Montreal,” explains Kim. “Today, the city hopes to develop the project and we can’t wait to see the results.”
Getting people to reflect on their surroundings and the climate that they inhabit, is part of what drives APPAREIL architecture. They excel at their craft by putting ethics and the environment at the forefront, while reminding us to appreciate our Nordic heritage.