The path taken gives no indication of what awaits us at the end of the road, on which old cultivated fields have given way to new houses. You have to persist, then go deeper into the woods on foot, to see an unusual site appear in this context. The humble and generous painting that awaits us is a breeding ground for creativity.
In a green setting where moss, fern, hemlock and a few deciduous trees reign, the Abouts house stands like a bird on a branch, delicately nestled on its peninsula surrounded by a small river.
The building, designed by Pierre Thibault between 2001 and 2003, and whose construction was completed in 2005, still inspires the same fascination two decades later. Considered for a long time with the owners, it took its time to be born. “It’s the story of an encounter,” underlines the architect. Together, in a quest, we created a space. Time has made it possible to make it a place which is not generic and which is a reflection of its occupants. »
Les Abouts is a living piece of art, a habitable sculpture. It embodies the power that architecture has to transform not only the place, but also the human being.
After a career in finance, in Montreal and New York, it was in Saint-Edmond-de-Grantham, a town in the heart of Quebec where he grew up, that Michel Paradis chose to put down roots with his partner. , Bernard Landriault. At the time, the absence of a signal – not even for a cell phone – marked the break from work and an urban rhythm. Despite technological progress, it is still this feeling of serenity that inhabits the place and creates a desire for slowness and contemplation.
“There was the attraction of nature, but also the need for walls to display our art. The Maison des Abouts was designed as a showcase for our creations,” says Bernard Landriault.
The couple’s collection includes 200 works by living artists. Fifty of these paintings and sculptures are exhibited in this place, which has established itself as a permanent residence over time. The boundaries between inside and outside blur. Those between the works of artists and the paintings of a constantly changing landscape, too: as if this communion between art and nature was self-evident.
Art is a passion developed over time. It was another life that carried us.
Bernard Landriault, co-owner of Abouts and co-founder of the Grantham Foundation
Uniqueness is timeless
“The site was lush and gave the impression of a tropical place with its abundance of ferns,” describes Pierre Thibault. It felt like the beginning of the world…” To avoid precipitating this ecosystem, no machinery was involved in the construction of Abouts. Instead, the materials were transported by hand to respect what nature took centuries to create.
Since 2000, the architect has often worked on this relationship between architecture and landscape. Les Abouts is, however, among the first in a line of transparent creations and one that pushed the concept further at a time when it was considered avant-garde. Sixty-four windows and panes, angled at different degrees, make up the shell of the building. “Using fenestration with such generosity was unusual at the time. People were perplexed about the energy credentials of the house, he recalls. The evolution of materials and glass has allowed this opening to the outside. »
Les Abouts had an international reputation in its early days and was awarded, in 2007, the public prize from the Order of Architects of Quebec. She has matured since then. Of course, its oak floors and wooden ceilings have adopted more amber hues, but it has not aged in 20 years.
Built in the spirit of the modernist movement, it fits into its landscape as if it had always lived there. The owners wouldn’t change a thing about this house. Neither does the architect. “The materials evolve, but the main principles of natural lighting, orientation, use of volumes are renewed with the same language,” he notes.
The house is built in two volumes: the first, horizontal and glazed; the second, on two levels, one of which floats above the space so as not to break any of the movement.
Inside, no wall, no door creates an opaque border. The movement continues above the partitions or from the sides: a fluidity which influences the light and which is felt when entering the places which embrace the landscape in all its facets.
“Here, we are always in an optimal position to enjoy the environment and give free rein to the thoughts that inhabit us,” observes Bernard Landriault, adding that this residence has changed their lives. The couple continued their “second life” there and a second career in the arts. “Here, we live in nature as in art. » And this passion continues today in another vector: the Grantham foundation.