Architecture: The process, and the product of planning, designing, and constructing buildings, and other structures. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural symbols and as works of art.
Alexis Naylor and Stéphanie Plourde conceive and build living spaces that are fluid and functional, and perfectly integrated with their environments. The duo met in Québec City, several years ago, before deciding to make Montréal the city in which they would establish Atelier Général, their architectural firm. Since then, they have carried out various projects in different parts of the city, including NDG, The South-West, The Plateau, Hochelaga, and Outremont. Their residential, commercial, and industrial work, includes building residences, building-out penthouse rooftop terraces, interior build-out, complete home renovation. They have combined condos, converted duplexes into homes and cottages, and converted commercial spaces into liveable, innovative lofts. They have conceived staircases, and rebuilt a playground for a primary school.
Great architecture is not constrained by making something out of nothing; it includes reforming and reshaping what exists into something beautiful, and meaningful, and truly exceptional. The act of re-creation is the act of creation; and, what is created by Atelier Général is indispensable in a city with architectural history, and diversity, such as Montréal. At Atelier Général, Stéphanie and Alexis conceive, and draw, offering those who visit or inhabit AG spaces, an experience of balanced calm, and of stimulation. Their goal is to provide for their clients, new ways of living, in their professional and personal spaces. Their approach aims to make spaces more modular, adapted to daily activities, furnished with functional objects, all in thoughtful simplicity, and with attention to detail.
Why architecture? “I actually came to architecture through drawing, and when I discovered the ability to improve the lives and environments of others through architecture, I was fortunate to find that communicating through drawing maintained my passion for the craft.”
Your preferred projects? “Residential, mainly. One of the reasons for this preference is that I get to solve problems that are usually approached with disposable products. I get the opportunity to integrate solutions right into the genes, the design, of the space; into the actual walls. This is why it can be so fun to do transformation projects. When you are able to go into an existing space which has more of a default design, you are able to grasp the space, and rethink it, and restructure it, to serve actual daily usage and long term purpose, beyond its basic functions.”
A project you enjoyed thoroughly? “La Résidence Saint-Philippe, a one hundred and fifty year old property located in St- Henri.” For this beautiful transformation project, Stéphanie and Alexis chose to preserve the best of the existing qualities of the building. “The façade was restored, the original bricks were individually dismantled, cleaned and reassembled. In the case of this residence, we were able to modernize the building, while preserving its history.”
New trends in architecture? “More efficient uses of urban living space. I started noticing novel approaches to this trend, in China, about fifteen years ago. People spend most of their time outside their homes; why add additional financial constraints with a bigger space, often poorly designed, when people tend to externalize the most expensive and inefficient parts of the home? Lifestyles have evolved, and architecture is the key driver of this evolution.”
Why the South-West? Other than the fact that it is rapidly expanding, Stéphanie and Alexis find that its inhabitants are open to the idea of design. They are not looking for the perfect pre- built house; they are interested in building the house of their dreams with their chosen architect.
Three examples of great architecture in the South-West? “The Redpath Lofts: An audacious project that succeeded in building residential lofts, within the character, and constraints, of a historic sugar mill. The Impérial Lofts: A stunning conversion of the century old Imperial Tobacco buildings, into seven hundred and fifty residential lofts, and condos, with unique cachet. The Irene Lofts: Another great conversion, and expansion, of an industrial building, which dates back to 1938; featuring a contemporary perforated-metal cladding atop the existing façade.”
Function and pleasure, these are the way Atelier Général envision our living space experience.