Bourgeois / Lechasseur Architects recently designed a new building for Center Est-Nord-Est, in the quiet village of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. The village is known for its longstanding woodcarving tradition and has been a rallying point for artists from various locations around the world. What started as a series of casual encounters in the early 1990's gradually turned into an artist-in-residence program, open to artists looking for inspiration along the St. Lawrence River.
Confined to makeshift facilities until 2018, Centre Est-Nord-Est now boasts a brand new building, which stands on the outskirts of the village. The building is the result of an architectural competition launched in 2017. After years of preparation and fundraising, the long-awaited Centre Est-Nord-Est sits elegantly on the same site as the building it replaced.
As was obvious from their competition entry, Olivier Bourgeois and Régis Lechasseur who both grew up in relatively remote locations were able to blend their intimate knowledge of Québec's rural landscapes with their modern-day vision. The long monolithic volume reminiscent of traditional barns evolved quite naturally from their ability to marry tradition and contemporary architecture.
ENE's front entrance is off the main highway, delicately inserted in the narrow wood-lined façade. Once passed the door, a surprisingly exuberant double-height volume awaits visitors, staff and residents alike. This multifunctional space, the true heart of the project, serves as a meeting point, lounge, exhibition area, community kitchen, and dining room. One accesses a quieter library zone via a voluptuously curved spiral staircase. Carefully framed skylights are carved out of the sloping ceiling, flooding the upper level with natural light while the main floor is mostly lit through large openings giving to an adjacent court.
The residents' combined work and living quarters are located towards the back of the building. Key to the concept was the design of five identical, yet flexible, live-in studios with sleeping mezzanines. As floor requirements vary widely from one discipline to another, the expandable workspace was planned to be highly flexible and adaptable to individual pursuits whether sculpture, performance art, photography or others. Individual studios are reached through a central corridor, which isolates them from the livelier public areas towards the front. Three shared workshops (wood, metal, and assembly) are also located along the corridor.
Photography: Adrien Williams