We’re big fans of homes designed to be aware of both the natural environment and history of their location. But what if that landscape is actually man-made? This question was the unique grounding for Montreal firm Alain Carle Architecte’s True North home, situated near the Canadian city of Cornwall, Ontario. With a designer well-versed in earth-rooted design, True North is a critical study of how best to accomodate to the artificial surrounds.
The area neighbouring the city of Cornwall was dramatically modified in the mid 1950s, out of the construction of a large waterway called the St Lawrence Seaway. The waterway extends from Canada into the United States, allowing large vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes of North America. The True North project is located on the man-made Moulinette Island, part of a chain of small “islands” formed from the flooding of the dam.
To take up a spot on this exclusive man-made coastline, a home needs to be ready to endure very strong wind conditions. For this, Alain Carle Architecte selected durable board-formed concrete and black metal cladding for the exterior. Small glazed courtyards were created to block wind, while dousing the home in light. These atriums are visible from various points of the home and along with the skylights and generous proportions of glass, blur the boundaries between the interior and exterior. For Alain Carle Architecte, these structural features provide a complex relationship with the landscape, amplified by the “many artificial reflections of the glass or metal surfaces”.
Entering the home from the south, you are greeted by a short flight of stairs that lead into a foyer-like space. From here, you are introduced to a feast of robust forms, angular lines and generous proportions. The home spans three guest bedrooms with a master suite located in a western portion of the home, that also faces the glass courtyard. While the home is predominantly single-storey, the best views in the house are lapped up by the home office, perched above the living room. Just as the outside, the interior favours the industrial materials of polished concrete flooring, in the company of dark timber joinery and black walls. The minimalist and monochrome shared spaces are a moody affair, perfect for hibernating from the white and wintery weather.
Just as its location, True North is a striking combination of fabricated and natural elements. With their polished and perceptive approach, Alain Carle Architecte have captured the complexity of the rural Ontario terrain while making the True North project feel entirely at home within it.
“[The home] becomes a device to perceive the landscape rather than a fixed, self-referenced architecture.”
— Alaine Carle Architecte