Architectural design firm YH2 marries modern residences with a natural experience in the Canadian Laurentians
On the banks of Lac Supérieur, just 90 minutes north of Montreal in Quebec, a mountain that was once the property of a former religious congregation now houses a creative and innovative model for integrating contemporary architecture in a natural environment.
Located on the north side of the Mont-Tremblant ski resort, in the Laurentians touristic region, the Fraternité-sur-Lac resort site values human experience above all else. In 2012, its developers entrusted Montreal studio YH2 with the challenge of creating a series of modern residences that would be integrated into the natural environment – hence targeting a new generation of homeowners who are sensitive to design, architecture and new standards with regards to interior and exterior developments. This approach marks a clear shift away from traditional log lodges, the mythical Canadian cabin or plywood-heavy alpine cottages surrounded by boutiques.
By signing on to a real estate project for the very first time, the YH2 team first conceived Spahaus, which focuses on horizontal housing, a marriage of wood and concrete, panoramic vistas and an outdoor spa. A series of Trihaus – a big brother to Spahaus – then rapidly followed, with its three-storey vertical design overlooking a terrace, providing owners with the feeling of living amidst the trees. This cluster of secondary homes aims to preserve the site’s natural state, including the original trees, a river and trails leading to Lac Supérieur and the Club de la Pointe, an open-air playground laid out on the shores of the aforementioned lake, where motorised vessels are forbidden.
Since setting up shop in Montreal’s Little Italy neighbourhood nearly 20 years ago, Loukas Yiacouvakis and Marie-Claude Hamelin have given life to many distinctive residential and commercial projects that have attracted attention both in Canada and around the world. For Yiacouvakis, his team’s utmost priority is to democratise access to architecture. “I believe it is in everyone’s best interest to democratise the work we carry out,” he explains. “We aim to deliver carefully thought-out residences, but even more importantly, to send out a clear message that architecture doesn’t merely cater to a privileged minority.”
Therefore, YH2 is always on the hunt for the best playing surface in a natural environment where it can integrate projects that are inspiring, functional and affordable. “I believe that a secondary residence should allow for a deep-rooted connection with nature and the surrounding landscapes, all the while offering a living space wherein one feels entirely comfortable with oneself and with others,” Yiacouvakis points out.
YH2 and Fraternité-sur-Lac’s concerted vision translated into an approach Yiacouvakis describes as “ready-to-live”, comparable to the ready-to-wear lines devised in the 1960s by haute couture fashion houses. “Until now, our practice has mainly been dedicated to architectural design for specific clients – custom-built homes that can pride themselves on a privileged rapport with the natural environment they integrate. With the Spahaus and Trihaus projects, we are working in collaboration with Fraternité developers to establish an assortment of properties in nature that are flexible and maintenance-free. This collection of residences was designed for this particular mountain site, by rolling out a variety of different models that serve as a bona fide, alfresco art collection.”
Unlike the typical approach of conceiving and marketing real estate projects, Fraternité-sur-Lac wants to steer clear of simplistic dichotomies between the urban bustle and peaceful rural life, by reaching out to a community of buyers who see both of these realities positively and who seek to balance both harmoniously instead of pitting one against the other.