T House by Natalie Dionne Architecture
T House, a country retreat in Quebec’s Eastern Townships was designed by NDA for a busy urban Montreal family. It is inspired from the writings of Pliny the Younger, whose sensual descriptions of two large Italian villas dating back to antiquity stimulate the imagination and compels us to contemplate one’s place in the surrounding landscape.
The house was placed in a forest clearing on a plateau high up on a hillside offering beautiful vistas to rolling agricultural valleys and distant mountains. Upon arrival, two sparsely fenestrated volumes reveal themselves as blocks gently deposited on a field of green. The first volume, 2 –storey and roughly cubic in shape is clad with wood siding. The second, a single-storey 24m long rectangle, embedded in the ground at one end and cantilevered over the hill at the other end is wrapped in composite cement panels. The center of the composition is an empty space of transition between these two volumes: transparently opening onto a spectacular panorama of Appalachian mountain ridges with Mount Sutton peaking on the horizon.
Taking cues from its bucolic environment, this architecture is defined and modulated by the natural views, sunlight and the topography of the site. The house, its gardens, terraces and swimming pool, fostered a cruciform plan oriented along the North-South and East-West axes. In plan, the house revolves around three distinct parts arranged in the form of the letter ‘T’. One part accommodates the living room, another, the guest rooms and a third houses the kitchen with the master bedroom upstairs. The dining room, the place of congregation that ties these together, lies at the crossroads of three cardinal vistas. To the east, the view opens onto the landscape of distant mountains and a wood deck, which takes advantage of the rising sun. To the south, the central space extends to a mineral patio where a slender rectilinear pool leads to the hardwood forest. Finally, to the west overlooking a water garden, we see the entrance and the green field with the woods that rise on the hill behind it. It is from this side that the dining room in the evening is bathed in the last rays of the sun.
The ambiance in the home is also greatly affected by the presence of water. The pool, the water garden, and the adjacent stream gently flowing to the pond below, provide a faint background accent of rustling water. Subtle lighting of these aqueous media in addition to the homes lighting makes the place enchanting at night.
Finishing details, both interior and exterior, are the soul of the house. Built-in furniture is designed with attention to detail and executed with precision, whether it’s the fireplace, bookshelves in the living room, butterfly doors leading to the guest bedrooms, kitchen furniture (with its floating island apron ) bathroom cabinetry or the wooden shutters and the bed of the master bedroom. The same care applies to exterior wall finishes of torrefied wood, cement board, Corten steel and white oak paneling which penetrate the interior. Likewise, continuity of horizontal surfaces in concrete, limestone and slate also help to blur the boundaries between outside and inside.
T House, was designed with state of the art technical specifications and is certified Novoclimat. A geothermal climate control system has reduced dependency for energy resources in a rural setting. Fenestration was applied as a function of climate and orientation to ensure the comfort of each space in winter as well as in summer. Vis-à-vis operable windows provide natural cross ventilation. To the north, the house has few openings. To the south, the roof of the central space projects out over the patio just enough to protect the lobby from overheating in the summer while allowing winter rays to penetrate and bring solar gain. Concrete and natural stone flooring, preserve freshness in summer; exposed to direct sunlight and equipped with a hydronic heating system, they provide ideal comfort during the cold seasons.
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