Bessborough Residence is the latest new project by Stéphane Rasselet, a Canadian architect based in Montréal already covered in Floornature in the past. Over the past three years, Naturehumaine, the studio founded by Rasselet, has grown rapidly while maintaining its signature style. The Naturehumaine aesthetic has a strong minimalist base favouring open spaces and simple furnishings, though without exaggeration. This aesthetic is accentuated by sharp lines and geometric shapes and at the same time softened by use of contrasting materials and colours, for instance by combining snow white walls with wooden or metal furnishings, blocks and dividers in solid colours, sometimes brightly coloured and other times matt black, as in the case at hand.
The Bessborough Residence is located in Montreal’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce district. The project involved complete renewal of the ground floor of a duplex dating back to the ’fifties. As is often the case when renovating old buildings, the true challenge was how to open up and maximise living space while maintaining a clear separation between spaces with different intended uses. Naturehumaine’s concept is contained in three main blocks, volumes that break up the space and play with the concept of the wall, which is ingeniously emphasised in this project in response to requirements.
In the middle, the black block defining circulation on the floor acts as a filter among various different functions. By introducing a new flight of stairs, this volume plays around with transparency and the alternation of solids and hollows with use of a variety of materials, such as glass, steel, vertical bars and MDF panels.
The wooden volume, on the other hand, brings warmth and cosiness into the home, which is otherwise all in black and white. On one side it contains a bookshelf, and on the other, an access room adjacent to the master bedroom.
The simple, elegant grey volume allows a number of utility functions, including the bathroom, to be hidden behind glossy panels. The choice of furnishings also complies with the guidelines that make Rasselet and Naturehumaine’s projects so recognisable: plenty of breadth and empty spaces, design with modern lines and, above all, use of the colours already used in the home, grey, matt black and wood.
Once again, Stéphane Rasselet makes the most of the rhythm by handling empty spaces in a painstakingly worked space, almost like that of a typographer determining the proportions of black and white when making up a printed page. If we were to sum up the excellence of Naturehumaine’s work in just two words, they would undoubtedly be “balance” and “cleanliness”.
This is a bold stylistic key, built up over time drawing on the experience for which the studio is widely recognised and appreciated. Not to be confused with the icon of the self-proclaimed genius, Rasselet achieves results through dedication and a good dose of self-criticism. The architect is an example and a warning for those just starting out on their careers: the true challenge for an architect lies in managing to create and codify their own stylistic code, an identity which is maintained over the years and can be instantly recognised in any project, even while dialoguing with clients of all kinds and accepting the restrictions they impose.
Location: Montreal, Canada
Surface area: 85 sqm
Photos: Adrien Williams