Pavilion A by Maurice Martel Architecte is a beautiful single-level swimming oasis constructed on a lush verdant site in Saint-Bruno de Montarville. Encapsulated by glass walls, with a single solid wall – a cylinder – enclosing the washroom, the design is a respectful nod to the iconic Glass House (1949) by renowned architect Philip Johnson, who was a mentee of the legendary Mies van der Rohe.
Although the pavilion was built in 2016, seventy years after Johnson and van der Rohe, it’s still a gem of modernity. The Modernist Movement came out of the dirty grit of the industrial revolution and had humanist values of clean and inviting environments, open spaces, and fresh air. My old architecture professor would say that “once you can name a movement, it’s dead.” While there’s truth to the statement, Pavilion A still captures what the Modernist Movement was all about – a healthy quality of living.
One of the main qualities of the glass curtain wall is the blurred line between indoor and outdoor spaces. The expansive seamless glass panels invite the outdoors in, and it's black structural posts and canopy help blend the entire pavilion into the landscape. The extensive use of glass results is an almost camouflage-like building envelope, which reflects and changes with its surroundings, embedding the shelter into the land even more.
The all-season refuge serves as a tropical respite, even during the cold Quebec winters. It features multiple skylights to maximize the natural light and enhance the outdoor-like experience.
The only solid massing inside the house – the washroom – is a red cedar-clad cylindrical column. Maurice Martel cleverly used it as a heavy visual composition element in accordance with the rule of thirds. It also anchors the home to the ground with its monolithic form, standing out from the light and breezy glass walls. The inside of the washroom is covered in a simple white penny tile on the walls, and a near charcoal penny tile on the floor, contrasting nicely with the warm wood finish of the outside.
The space plan is well-proportioned and intelligently-scaled with unified zones for indoor and outdoor recreation and seating. This is extremely reminiscent of Mies van der Rohe’s planning style, which typically resembled a geometric, abstract painting.
Funnily enough, legend has it that when Mies van der Rohe visited to look at Philip Johnson’s glass house, Mies stormed out in anger, for poor attention to detail from his student. But I’m sure even he would find some praise for Maurice Martel’s Canadian counterpart.
For more innovative work like this, visit Maurice Martel Architecte
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Photography courtesy of Adrien Williams & Raphael Thibodeau.
Researched and Written by Mikhail SK, Undergraduate Environmental Design, OCAD University