This project reflects a powerful creative vision that respects the cultural heritage of the Boulevard des Forges area and its physical constraints. Inspired by a narrative that calls on nature and culture in which tales and legends have been fed by the surrounding natural setting that obeys the meandering St. Maurice River, the project itself becomes a work of art articulated around the site's own attributes.
If the master caster was the one conducting operations at Les Forges, the architect to this project is the blacksmith of the house. Designed and motivated by the region's industrial, yet poetic heritage, the house is sculpted and moulded to carefully reflect and respect the topographic slopes, the views, the plant cover, and the meandering curves of the river.
Through a 265-meter long private access driveway along the Des Forges Blvd., the black, unusual shape of the residence gradually reveals itself through the immense pines. As you approach, the vision grows clearer: Des Forges House emerges as you enter the building from the lower floor, on the forest side.
Located at a height of 55 m on the edge of the cliff’s erosion zone, the upper floor of the house rises from the ground and follows the curves of the St. Maurice River. While the area presents several challenges, particularly regarding the municipal regulations, but also the steep slope that characterizes the site`s topography, the siting restrictions limit the construction of buildings near the cliff. Thus, in order to enjoy the view, the new construction had to be built following the cliff's profile at a distance of 20 m. This specific site constraint is echoed behind the sprawling design that defines the project’s morphology.
Des Forges House consists of three wings set on a natural stone foundation. Each of the wings is supported by a main structure of steel and a secondary woodwork structure, intentionally exposed. The latter intertwines at the center of the project to showcase an open space where a monumental stairway captures the attention.
The black spruce plank siding was chosen for its visual neutrality. The whole ensemble creates an unusual volume that breaks away from the horizon and reflects the desired effect designers were seeking to convey from the very first sketches. When approaching the site, the intention was to offer the view of a mysterious object floating among the trees and interacting with the river bends. The upper floor seems to be hanging in mid-air, while the living areas are cantilevered and focus the views on the surrounding landscapes.
The idea was for the prism to blend in with the surroundings and to leave as much room as possible to the natural texture of the stone used for the foundation. The ceiling is covered with knot-free cedar slats, and creates a warm and soft contrast with the black exterior. The cedar ceiling continues outside into the screened room, accentuating the transparent effect.
The entrance is through a covered outdoor space, sheltered from the elements, arched on all four sides. The design of these arches is inspired by Les Forges du Saint-Maurice and echoes the traditional natural stone masonry techniques. One of them, the solid wood and glass front door, opens onto the center of the residence, where the three wings meet. The design is quite simple and effective. As for the spatial planning, the living areas and the master suite are located on the second floor, whereas guests and visiting family areas, as well as garages and utility rooms, are located on the first floor.
The shaded natural stone siding runs inside and across the double-height space to cover the enclosed block that separates the two open areas upstairs. The staircase wraps around the cascading pendant fixtures and prompts the attention towards the upstairs living areas. Beyond the kitchen, in the boudoir, a wood-burning fireplace in a massive stone wall soothes the room and offers a warmth that contrasts with the raw materials of concrete, steel and glass. Supported by a V-shaped steel structure, this generously fenestrated space offers a breathtaking view of the St. Maurice River and connects to a large deck. The exterior staircase delicately follows one of these angulated frames and leads directly to ground level, into a covered outdoor relaxation area.
This modern residence blends in respectfully with the landscape of the St. Maurice River. It demonstrates that the constraints of the site, as well as the region’s cultural heritage fed by the folk imagination surrounding Les Forges du Saint-Maurice, can serve as a basis for a strong concept that generates a quality architecture that is environmentally aware.
Architects: Bourgeois Lechasseur / architectes
People who participated in the design and production:
Olivier Bourgeois, Régis Lechasseur, Valerie Gauthier, Maxime Rousseau
Contractor: Construction Boulard and associates
Structural engineers: L2C expert advisors
Photographer: Adrien Williams
Facade cladding: MAIBEC wood siding
Flooring: Beton prestige, concrete
Windows: SHALWIN, aluminium windows