Slate House was conceived as an in-situ installation that reveals a pre-existing landscape. Approached as a comprehensive reconfiguration of an entire site, the project considers the house as one component of a greater whole.
Located in Laval, a suburb of Montreal, the site is a residual parcel in a new subdivision laid out over historic farmland. The project preserves features pre-dating the subdivision including natural topography, a small stream, and a mature deciduous grove. Surrounded by lots whose terrain has been bulldozed to build tract houses, the project proposes an alternative: the conservation and enhancement of the site’s historic landscape and the reaffirmation of its agricultural and territorial memory.
Slate House stands in sharp contrast to the tract houses that surround it. Orchestrating a progressive discovery from suburban street to interior courtyard to forest and stream, the house is a sheltered oasis in a unique pastoral setting. Two orthogonal volumes frame the courtyard and the natural change in grade from street to stream is used to slide a lower storey under the main level. Both floors open laterally to the courtyard, the stream, and the southwest sun.
The program called for unique living accommodations that include a spacious garage and workshop for the owner’s collection of vintage automobiles and a full guest apartment. Located on the lower level, the guest apartment opens directly on the courtyard while the main living area above is connected to a wood gallery and a swimming pool.
The building exterior combines natural slate shingles installed using traditional methods of assembly with sheet glass and factory-made aluminum windows. Commonly found in traditional religious architecture, the artisanal slate finds expression here as a resolutely contemporary material. Slate House integrates such sustainable features as geothermal and passive solar heating, natural water collection, local species of vegetation, and low-energy electrical fittings. By generously engaging its found landscape, the house initiates a fundamental connection between the inhabitant and the history and culture of a specific place.
DATA SHEET OF THE PROJECT
Official name of the project: Slate House
Type of project : Location : Laval, Quebec, Canada
Client : Denis Lacroix
Project manager : Richard de la Riva
Design architect:Richard de la Riva and Gavin Affleck
Project team : Brigitte Boudreau, Federico Carbajal and Julie Marchand
Structural engineer : D.L. Turner Consultants
Budget : 450 000 $CA
Area of project : 2 760 ft2 / 256 m2
Project end date:2010
THE FIRM : AFFLECK DE LA RIVA
Founded in 1995 by Gavin Affleck and Richard de la Riva and based in Montreal, Canada, Affleck de la Riva Architects believe that quality environmental design is an agent of social change and a key element in fostering citizenship, social equity, and healthy lifestyles. The firm provides services for the design and construction of institutional, commercial and residential projects and has also developed specific expertise in urban design and the restoration of historic structures.
For more than twenty years, through a wide range and scale of projects including research, competitions, and built work, Affleck de la Riva has been exploring the potential of history and landscape to generate contemporary architecture. An interest in the craft-based traditions of noble materials has led to a number of building restoration commissions, including several important historic monuments. One cannot build contemporary architecture without having assimilating the lessons of the past.
The quality of Affleck de la Riva’s work has been recognized by numerous international publications (France, England, United States, Spain, China, Romania, South Korea, Turkey, etc.) and invitations to lecture in Europe and across North America. The firm is the recipient of more than a dozen professional distinctions including first prize awards in three open architectural competitions, a Governor General of Canada Award, two Awards of Excellence from the Order of Architects of Quebec, and an Award of Excellence from the Canadian Architect magazine.
Gavin Affleck and Richard de la Riva are active members of Canada’s architectural community. They have taught at schools of architecture across the country and contributed to numerous committees and organisations.