Trees blown by the storm cover the road leading to Saint-Donat. At their destination, 50 windswept giants are waiting to be torn to pieces. The small apple tree has remained intact, located in the heart of a house for which it has become the focal point.
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From his native Montérégie, the architect Maxime-Alexis Frappier preserves the comforting memory of the farm, the chicken farm and 5000 apple trees spread over 100 hectares of fertile and tamed land. A canvas very different from the untamed landscapes of the Nordic countries, which he nevertheless ended up being attached to over the years. Her boyfriend grew up in this topography of mountains, lakes and spruce trees where her parents had a cottage for a long time before settling down full time on the shores of Lake Archambault.
The charm of the surrounding cross-country trails, the village ice rink, the huge surface of water to practice on and the in-laws’ warm presence ended up being overtaken by the guy from the South Shore. After several years of renting in the area, Maxime-Alexis Frappier acquired the land adjacent to his in-laws, but in the woods, with the intention of building a house connected to its green surroundings.
In the heart of this home blooms a tree that is foreign to the landscape – a fragment of imported memory: a boy running through an orchard in Hemmingford … It is around this apple tree that the U-shaped house is articulated, they three main blocks of which have door -hangers reminiscent of farm buildings. Each has its function: the living areas and the garage on one side; on the other hand, two blocks, which include the master suite and the teen wing.
The anxiety of creation
When the design of this home began in 2019, French architect Roger Taillibert – the friend, the master – spent his last moments of his life. “He was the one who helped me take a step back from my practice. He always told me that the architect’s first duty is to create emotion. Taillibert achieved this especially through the use of curves. And this is where Maxime-Alexis Frappier picked up inspiration for his first sketches.
“Initially, I made a round house, but the project did not go on to the family committee,” he says, laughing. My wife’s wisdom brought me back to practical considerations: where should the furniture go in that kind of room, and how much will it cost? »
So the architect went back to his drawing board. From sketch to sketch, he found emotion with this minimalist and graphic concept that developed around an inner courtyard that acts as a giant skylight. In this visual breakthrough, the sun wanders from morning to evening to bathe the kitchen in amber light at the end of the day. The moon then appears there and makes room for a starry sky. Unlike the glass block in the living spaces, which showcases the base of the trees, the central opening allows you to watch the peaks dance. It is in this opening that his apple tree takes root. The room vibrates. Pulses.
We are in a dense forest. We better understand the importance of each tree when we adopt one.
Maxime-Alexis Frappier, architect and founder of the company ACDF
“As an architect, it is really exciting to make your house. And just as anxious, he says, admitting to having felt the pressure to prove himself and stand out with this personal creation. “While doing this, I designed a 42-story tower in Vancouver, but the anxiety I had with my house lived in a design that would mark a very specific moment in my career.”
“To alleviate my anxiety about doing something out of fashion, I reiterated the main principles of composition, which can not go wrong. Like the painter, he worked with the overlay of layers, the play of contrasts and transparency that creates depth and interest. When it enters, the visitor discovers this multilayer space – the airlock, the central opening, the terrace, the forest. The boundaries between nature and the outside are blurred.
Back to the basics
The couple wanted a bungalow with a fully glazed space that allows them to connect with nature. The transparency effect has been concentrated in the axis of the living room. “It feels like being outdoors like camping. It is a space that makes you want to chat with others, read … ”, emphasizes Marie-Andrée Lahaie. “And to do something other than watch TV,” continues William, the eldest of the two boys.
To create an entire glass space in the living room and the circulation rooms, the architect saved on the windows in the bedrooms. To reduce costs, he settled for the existing design constraints. The ceiling assumes a height of 9 feet, just like the large windows that are in the industry standards. The bathrooms and kitchen are unadorned and the rooms are of a reasonable size.
“We wanted a house where we could all be together and see each other, but still have privacy. Together or separately, we are visually in touch. And to be more isolated, we retire to our bedrooms, ”emphasizes the designer, whose house has been a small creative laboratory and an opportunity to push certain concepts within budget. A question also came with the process and served as a parameter for creation: do we really need it?
“The pressure was great. But I’m really happy with what we did. I think in the end it’s a great example of sensible use of resources to create spaces where you feel good,” concludes Maxime-Alexis Frappier The little apple tree is home to wildlife, gives the pulse of the temperature, changes with the seasons … “We have the impression that this tree accompanies us daily. I think it is this relationship between nature and people that makes me most happy. ”