Going back to school can be tricky, especially when it requires choosing the right student housing. Between massive lecture halls and crowded libraries, it’s important to find a dorm which provides comfort, privacy and security. The Edison Residence by KANVA, located at the McGill University in Montreal, exemplifies a refreshing contemporary interior space which fulfills all of the basic needs of a university student. In addition, although it appears modern in form, the structure exhibits traditional features and historical references which create a unique space on campus.
The residence offers space for 30 students, consisting of six rooms on the ground floor and eight rooms on each of the follow three floors. It is an arrangement of private and public sections which allow for the perfect blend of study and social areas for the occupants.
The lounge, kitchen and bathroom are all facing the street while the bedrooms are situated at the back of the building and can be easily accessed through a hallway. These private rooms include a large amount of built in storage, a bed, desk, and a large window providing natural light.
The colour scheme in the residence is a combination of grey floors and walls, light wooden furniture and white cabinets and countertops. The arrangements are maintained fairly minimalistic with a pop of yellow among the statement pieces throughout the spaces. This reoccurring vibrant colour matches several features along the outside areas as well. Its not only trendy and bright, but also brings a sort of energy and positive vibe within the space. I would say it looks like it is straight out of a design catalogue!
While the interior appears very modern, the structure promotes Montreal’s heritage through pictorial references of historical events on the exterior murals. Although from afar the housing block appears to be an arrangement of horizontal grey panels, it is in fact a detailed display of stills from Thomas Edison’s 1901 film, Montreal Fire Department on Runners. If you look closely, the architect had used photoengraving on the concrete itself to present the original building which occupied the site before it had burnt down. The photoengraving is subtle enough that it does not take away from the building itself or overwhelm the viewers. It is rather an addition which sparks curiosity about the site’s background and encourages students to learn more about their city. According to the architect, depending on the viewers’ position relative to the building and their walking speed, the storyline of the film stills can be experienced in multiple ways2.
In addition, the way the building is constructed reflects traditional architectural styles of earlier years. The main entrance of the building consists of a port-cochere tunnel located near the road. This is a connection of Montreal’s traditional building entrances which allow a passage-way for horse carriages3. Doesn’t it feel like you are travelling back in time?
During my academic years, I have learned to appreciate the historical buildings around my personal campus - especially those that are able to tell a story. In the design of the Edison Residence, the architect has been clever enough to integrate a very literal and direct representation of past events. The particular placements of the photoengravements provide an intimate connection between the viewers and the artworks, as some are located in less open spaces such as the main entrance tunnel. In turn, KANVA has also developed very modern and comfortable interior living spaces which provide a feeling of neutrality within the intricate structure. The yellow accent colour throughout the spaces adds an interesting stylistic choice which develops a sense of character and balances out the perhaps otherwise dull monotone colour scheme of the design. The residence is both appropriate for a heritage zone yet still trendy enough for newly entering students to enjoy. It’s a shame more university residences aren’t like this!
For more projects by KANVA, visit KANVA's website.
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All photos courtesy of: KANVA
Researched and written by Karolina Pisanko, Double Major in Architectural Studies, University of Toronto