La Charbonnière by Alain Carle Architecte

La Charbonnière is a lovely retreat located in La Malbaie, Canada, designed in 2016 by Alain Carle Architecte.

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Description

Located on the mountainside in the heart of a large real estate development project, the site of this residence essentially had been stripped by the developer to promote views of the St. Lawrence River and thus stimulate sales of the project lots. Paradoxically, this destructured the natural landscape, rendering appropriation of the site for residential purposes more complex, given the overexposure of the land. The resulting monumentality of the landscape is as spectacular as it is difficult to appropriate on a residential scale. That is why the project attempts to ft into this landscape while seeking a relationship it can offer in a context of domesticity.

Curiously, this situation is not unrelated to the long tradition of settlement in the Charlevoix region (Québec), characterized by the modest scale of the dwellings set against the immensity
of the St. Lawrence River and the rolling landscape. La Charbonnière was designed around this problem of “fitting” into the landscape, a consideration that is both formal and cultural. We believe the mode of implementation of the region’s traditional rural complexes has translated the rustic culture of yesteryear, which has almost disappeared today. The subtlety with which the villagers appropriated their territory according to a precise arrangement of small volumes of homes or outbuildings, has today been supplanted by the uniform deployment of a residential typology that is much more suburban than rustic.

The project plan plots an interior yard fronting on the St.Lawrence River, like an arm that hugs and protects the inhabitants from the immensity of the landscape. The exterior volumetry is abstract and intriguing. It emerges from the soil, like a sculptural object, facing the river’s monumentality.

The scale is ambiguous, in the image of the surrounding landscape. The charred cedar walls, produced by the “shou-sugi-ban” technique are free of windows on the side facing the road and contribute to the strangeness of this form, which divides the landscape without imposing itself.

The deployment of the spaces hugs the contours of the site, clearing two habitable stories but maintaining direct access at ground level over the entire perimeter. This allows direct appropriation of the outdoor site while allowing some privacy for the users. The meal preparation spaces are vast and constitute the residence’s living center, opening onto the
inner yard. The living room is designed like a contemplative retreat, opening onto the riverscape. In the same spirit, a dry sauna, largely opening onto the yard, is also offered as a place of relaxation in the heart of the dwelling, facing St. Lawrence.

The esthetics of the indoor spaces have a rustic stamp. The materiality refers to our roots, more rustic than modernist, closer to the earth. Its internal organization is organic, like our beautiful rural homes designed without an architect…

Photography courtesy of Alain Carle Architecte

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- by Matt Watts

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