With its modern take on the sturdy cabins of the Swiss Alps, Chevalier Morales Architectes’ mountaintop chalet in Quebec projects a low, rectilinear form onto a stark, natural backdrop.
The town of Sutton is just a dot on the map of Quebec’s Eastern Townships, a popular ski destination flung so far from Montreal that it hovers just north of the Vermont border. Although the town is small, the vistas are large: a landscape dominated by low, tumbling mountains covered with trees that disappear each winter beneath a thick blanket of snow. It was here that the Schweiser family resettled from Switzerland in the 1930s, drawn to a terrain reminiscent of the Alps back home.
The new owners of one parcel of this estate turned to Montreal’s Chevalier Morales Architectes to deliver a chalet that adheres programmatically to the formula of a traditional Swiss chalet, but reimagined with a contemporary feel. Following the traditional model, they produced a chalet conceived in three parts – the foundation, frame, and roof, stacked like a layer cake. The traditional stone foundation was updated to a poured concrete base anchored directly to the bedrock; a sturdy post-and-beam frame enabled complete control over window placement, allowing lead architects Stephan Chevalier and Sergio Morales to precisely control views interior views; and a massive slab roof clad in local pine extends beyond the foundation to protect the exposed entrances from raging winds. An especially deep cantilever projects over the garage to reduce the need for shoveling.
With its low profile, the chalet in Quebec seems almost to sink into the hillside, its rooms spread out to hug the mountain. Inside, the linear floor plan was based on a desire to maximize the views of the valley while capitalizing on daylight. To the northeast, facing the strongest winds, the architects eliminated windows in favour of a long wall clad in black-stained pine leading to the entrance, where a sheltering wall projects perpendicular to the structure.
Next to the entrance is a small glazed courtyard, recessed and topped by a projecting skylight, to offers views up the mountainside while minimizing heat loss. On the opposite side of the structure, looking southwest over the valley, the chalet is fully glazed to capitalize on panoramic views.