Atelier C by Nicholas Francoeur is an artists’ residence in Quebec that transcends common forms of green design. The house incorporates multiple sustainable design strategies and has even received LEED Platinum certification.
The house is clad in charred cedar that complements the white aspen used for the soffits and ceilings. This dark, cedar exterior juxtaposes with the bright, airy interiors. A selection of tall, rectangular windows creates vertical framed views to the outside. This verticality and rhythm further emphasize immersion in the lush woods.
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One of the clients’ main requests was to incorporate spaces for working on their creative pursuits. The couple practices writing, photography and music, thus requiring ample workspace. To meet this requirement, Atelier C boasts four studios. The two south-facing studios are dedicated to music and fabrication. The two that face the north are for photography and writing and are integrated into the floor plan as spaces that one circulates through instead of as two separate rooms.
For Atelier C, Francoeur intended to shift from typical green architecture and infuse the project with beautiful, modern details that support sustainable design strategies. For him, the house’s functional components needed to be aesthetically pleasing, too. One such example is the mono-pitched roof and overhangs. Beyond their elegant appearance, they manage climatic conditions to enhance user comfort and project longevity. During the harsh winters, the roof slope and overhangs efficiently drain off the snow. In the warmer months, they limit direct sunlight in the summer afternoons, keeping the interiors naturally cool. To further support these thermal comfort strategies, the house uses double the insulation required by code, minimizing energy needed during colder months.
Sustainable material choices were also an important consideration for the project. The clients opted to use natural materials wherever possible, including cellulose insulation and various types of timber. The designer also selected furnishings to limit Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) emissions without sacrificing aesthetics.
Another green design aspect Francoeur considered is longevity. This meant prioritizing well-crafted technical details and a timeless design. Creating spaces with the intent of aging well is crucial, as architectural details become elegant and follow universal design principles instead of seasonal trends. Furthermore, the meticulous design details mean the project won’t require frequent renovations, thus minimizing costs and environmental impact.
Through his work on Atelier C, Francoeur has been able to prove that sustainable architecture need not be unattractive and purely functional. Instead, through well-crafted details, environmentally-friendly design can be timelessly beautiful.
Project collaborators include general contractor Renovia Inc., structure by Maisons Éléments, kitchen work by À Hauteur d’Homme, and cabinetry by Xavier Hackenbeck.
Photographs by Raphaël Thibodeau and Ronny Theriault