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House on Ile Rene-Levasseur

Manicouagan, Quebec, Canada

2015

The site for this 6,200 sq. ft. second home for vacation and entertaining, Ile Rene-Levasseur in rural Quebec, is a remote and undeveloped island in the center of Lake Manicouagan, an annular lake formed 214 million years ago from a meteor impact. The site is relentlessly covered with old-growth taiga forest which makes the construction of anything that has the ambition to remain aesthetically pristine nearly impossible. As such, the project was an opportunity to rethink the historically distinct relationship between a pristine architecture in a landscape, and its bucolic natural surroundings- as one might find in projects such as the Farnsworth House by Mies Van Der Rohe or the Glass House by Philip Johnson.  Instead this project sought to exaggerate the sites strangely primordially and adversarial botanical qualities to be aesthetically complimentary by beginning not with a pristine architectural glass box, but it’s opposite—a decaying masonry architectural ruin. The large kitbashed massing provides deep angular ledges and shaded nooks that encourage plant and moss growth. The primary cladding material itself, a very porous travertine, was selected to receive sediment and exaggerate staining towards this dramatic ruinous aesthetic effect. The window frames are clad in bronze panels that similarly change color and patina over time without rusting or metallic flaking. These frames are covered with micro-scale kitbashed rustication which provides further foot-holds for vines and plants.  Over time the house is intended to take on the qualities of a ruin, while remaining entirely functional and protected from the elements. This strategy allows the house, a second home that will be infrequently used, to remain dormant for long periods of time and require minimal maintenance for its ongoing upkeep. What would normally be an architectural nuisance- future plant growth, sediment, weathering, and staining from the surrounding forest are strategically planned into the lifespan of the project and work towards its ruinous aesthetic ambitions. Instead of becoming merely another glassy modernist home in a bucolic natural setting, the House on Ile Rene-Levasseur further explores philosophical concepts from Object-Oriented Ontology and Dark Ecology that suggest it is possible for an architectural project to withdraw from its mere building-ness and become something other, something discovered, mysterious and seemingly ancient and primordial in its relationship to its botanical context.