In the city of Baie-D’Urfe, situated at the southwestern end of the peninsula of Montreal, Canada, NORM Residence by Alain Carle Architecte features a series of minimal rooms with views that focus on nature and feel protected from the surrounding neighborhood.
NORM is a renovation and extension of an existing single-family residence that breaks with the generic notion of the suburban house, typically built without consideration of its context.
The basis of this transformation was to re-establish residential architecture, not as a manufactured product bought as a consumer good, but rather, as an architecture derived from qualities specific to a place.
For its inspiring design, NORM Residence has recently been awarded a 2022 International Architecture Awards Honorable Mention by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
NORM is located on former agricultural land that began to appear more like a traditional suburb after World War II with the propagation of prefabricated houses, established on subdivided lots.
The main street layout is organized according to principal axes following an orthogonal grid while the secondary arteries follow the irregular topography of the area, allowing for dense and mature vegetation and a natural atmosphere to the otherwise suburban area.
The winding nature of the street means that multiple facades of the residences are often perceptible from many viewpoints from the road, consequently affecting the privacy of the inhabitants.
This unique site characteristic presented an additional challenge as it contrasts the typical North American suburb that adheres to an orthogonal layout with a dominant single façade.
Located on a gently sloping, south-facing site, the original house left the sunniest part of the plot to the garage, while the living rooms were oriented to the north.
From the outside, the arrangement of volumes revealed one garage door from the street, rendering the pedestrian access almost invisible.
The new configuration of spaces emphasizes a more explicit relationship to the landscape.
With the complete reversal of program, the project redefines a unified link between different architectural volumes opening to specific landscape components on the site.
The new glazed openings are now oriented toward specific trees or other natural areas, to the sky or ground, so as to redirect views away from the suburban neighborhood.
In this way, the layout of spaces allows for a closer understanding of the landscape at large, giving the house a visual quality of isolation despite the nearby buildings.
The deliberate homogeneity of the interior finishes refers to the abstract and multi-directional characteristic of the architectural volumes perceived from the exterior.
This radical approach relativizes the functional program of each room to subordinate it to the construction of a fluid “landscaped interior,” which is articulated under the play of light and complex lines of the designed space.
This intentional elimination of materiality met the clients’ desires to live in a kind of minimal canvas of life, creating a neutral backdrop for their colorful lives.
The continuation of uniform materiality between the interior and exterior finishes inherently creates a contemplative living space, dictated by subtle variations of light, nature, and seasons on simplified forms.
NORM hopes to re-inscribe a critical sense and awareness to the act of inhabiting, reinforcing a richer and more explicit relationship to the environment, all the while diminishing material conquest that dominates a world of consumption.
Project: NORM Residence
Architects: Alain Carle Architecte
General Contractor: Gestion Mka Inc.
Photographers: Félix Michaud