Perforated aluminium-encased extension tops 1930's brick building in Montreal
The KANVA-designed urban housing project, Irène, located in Montreal’s borough, St-Henri, exemplifies innovation as a valuable design tool to individualise a building within the city. Perforated aluminium panels were customised into a novel exterior building envelope that screens the upper three storeys of an addition above an existing industrial building. Drawing an analogy with a theatrical curtain, the metallic skin acts equally to veil and to reveal the activity within, serving a performative function that adds a touch of spectacle to the neighbourhood.
The design process was prominently embedded throughout the building; the steps taken during conceptual design and the research & development phases lead to the decision to make an architectural feature the iconic persona of the project. Irène substantiates the incorporation of a poetic concept in conjunction with a challenging technical innovation to give rise to a functional, viable and aesthetic project.
The site presented the opportunity to renovate and restore an existing two-storey industrial building dating back to 1938. A considerable effort was made to study and understand both the residual building and the surrounding context, presently undergoing substantial urban revitalisation. For the three-storey addition, the approach was to create the impression of a light and floating volume atop the existing, heavier base - a contrasting superstructure that, by virtue of its difference, gives rise to a dialogue between old and new, tradition and contemporary, the building and its surroundings.
A play of transparency and opacity defined a perforation pattern that made use of three distinct hole sizes and spacing. These modular panels created an overall image replicating the curtain analogy. Much like a skin, this perforated metal cladding on the south facing facades, allows the building to breathe, while serving as a passive sun shield. Its user-operated panel system lets occupants control variables like ventilation, daylight and privacy.
The distinctive architectural feature that characterises Irène offers innovative functionality that aids in comfort, convenience and efficiency in everyday life. For the occupants, this skin serves as both a privacy screen and shield enhancing the living experience in a number of practical ways; permitting daylight, allowing direct natural ventilation and controlling intimacy. The operable modular shutters offer a control of views and environment through simple bi-folding mechanisms. The building users actively participate in establishing the interior experience by altering the facade through their daily routine.