Edison Residence by Kanva

Edison Residence by Kanva

A small vacant lot located at the epicenter of Montreal student life, just north of the McGill University's Milton gates, was the basis of the latest design by Kanva. The site endured a fire in the early 20th century, which flattened the existing 19th century historic stone house; this tragedy represents only one of many narrative layers embedded in the land. The historical context of the site became the primary inspiration for the urban renewal project, which lead to the exploration of an innovative concrete fabrication technique; photoengraved concrete panels that enabled the building to tell a story.

The project encapsulates an architecture "parlante" - an architecture that heightens the intellectual and perceptual experience of its inhabitants by stimulating active looking. The film sequence photoengraved into the concrete façade is extracted from the sequence of stills from the film: Montreal Fire Department on Runners (Edison, 1901). The film was carefully chosen for both its historical and contextual relevance: referencing the fire that vacated the site and highlighting the prolific inventor Thomas Edison, an important contributor to the development of 'tableaux mouvants' and motion pictures.

Material constraints arose from the outset of the project due to the fact that the site is positioned in a Montreal heritage zone; the palette was limited to masonry. The design team approached this predicament as more of an opportunity to challenge conventions and to test the limits of concrete. The process of photoengraving concrete was selected for its sensitive properties; it does not overwhelm the viewer but rather invites the user to re-imagine a story, as they move past or through the building and the film stills progressively move in and out of focus. The refined technique of photoengraving is an intricate tool facilitating a playful and adaptable narrative, on an otherwise brutal and barren material.

Edison Residence creates an animated architecture by using new technology in a socially engaging way. It calls for participation and reflection by the viewer as he or she contemplates the transformation and evolution of the site, and by extension the City. Most importantly, the Edison residence will be an inspiring living space for a student as they broaden their horizons.

Photos: Marc Cramer