The project consists of the construction of a new dwelling in a provocative urban setting. The original context was that of a river edge road with Victorian townhouses on the west side and parkland facing east to the river, where winter and spring conditions would lead to the establishment of ice cutting activities. The area is now dominated by big box stores on landfill and a major raised highway presently under reconstruction. Neglected, a previous home burned in 1985 and until the present project, the site served as an extended yard and parking for the immediate neighbor. However the momentum of urban renewal is now reaching the edge of this area close to downtown Montreal and the lot size proved appropriate for the project program. With a short walk to work and to metro and bike share stations, all major shopping and cultural destinations are rapidly accessed with minimized use of a private vehicle.
Foremost of design requirements is the creation of appropriate living quarters for the occupants as they progress beyond the actual 65-70 year point. The ground floor of 112 square metres is therefore positioned at 12’’ above the city sidewalk providing minimal slopes and zero height thresholds between front yard, house, and rear garden with fitness pool. In continuity with this premise, all principal living spaces are on the ground floor, with universal access provided throughout including the washroom and shower facilities. The auxiliary spaces consisting of a library-piano room and office-studio are on the equally sized second floor, accessible by a simple straight stairway wide enough to accommodate a motorized device if later required.
Natural daylight illumination is also considered as an essential living need as evidenced by the widely used curtain wall fenestration. A full height glazing is positioned at the southern principal entrance and combined with the glass floor allows sunlight to attain the middle area of both floors, a transparent break reminiscent of the river cut where ice blocks are removed.
The exterior architectural composition is an interplay of glass and brick surfaces, the joining seams of the solid and transparent materials highlighted by natural aluminum. The peripheral walls are of prefabricated wood structure with the inclusion of steel members to support the cantilevered brick veneer.
The interior architecture is defined by the exposed structural elements of clear span joists, Parallam® beams and columns, concrete floor, gypsum and brick surfaces. Whether on interior or exterior surfaces the stacked pattern based on the module of a single brick is respected without exception.
Indications of durable design considerations are the full width structure span that will allow reconfiguration of space usage should occupants and family needs change over the life span of the building and in addition to geothermal heating via radiant floors.
The historical architectural context is noteworthy for the artistry and hand work of stone, brick, and tinsmith detailing. The historical social context saw the ice workers who braved their lives cutting river ice nearby when the conservation of food depended on this commodity. In continuity and tribute to these contextual factors, a suspension system was devised and molten glass was poured on sand bed by a local artist to create the façade sculpture.
Gary Micheal Conrath
Jonathan Conrath, Nehad Kamel, Veniamin Chukhovich, Diane Ferland (glass panels at facade)
Indesign Conrath Architecte was founded in 1984. From the beginning, projects have been hybrid in nature, requiring an in depth knowledge of architecture, interior design, and industrial design. At this time, the principal clients of the firm are retail businesses that require distinctive large format spaces. Through the design process, prototype concepts define the marketing vision for interior and exterior of the buildings created. Operational requirements of retail commerce and land development are essential considerations. The projects realized are throughout the principal Canadian provinces or Quebec and Ontario. New materials and construction methods are explored on a continual basis to generate the prototype concepts. Quality residential architecture is a more recent field of endeavour for the firm, of which Ice Shore House is an important example.