Roger Taillibert’s Olympic Stadium. Buckminster Fuller’s Biodome. D’Astous & Durand’s Olympic Village. As Sherbrooke Street winds northeast past Maisonneuve Park, the architectural icons of Montreal’s Expo 67 and 1976 Olympics furnish an imposing vista. Immediately to the north, however, all that urban iconography swiftly gives way to Cité Jardin, a planned community of cottages, cul-de-sacs and architectural ambition of a very different scale and sensibility.
At the heart of the Cité Jardin community, local architects L. McComber have revitalized a post-war cottage with understated panache. Punctuated by a single second-storey window at the centre of its peaked roof, the home was built according to a design dubbed the MC1 – a form repeated dozens of times throughout the serially constructed neighbourhood.
L. McComber approached the project with a light yet assured touch. While the cottage form was meticulously preserved — with the peaked roof and dormer window maintained — a revitalized exterior hints at the more radical transformation inside. Facing a quiet, tree-lined street, a simple white frontage is accented by metal roofing that emphasizes the steeped form, with the central dormer subtly expanded and extruded to add depth and daylight.
The back of the house takes it up a notch. Emerging onto the home’s private backyard, a more dramatic upstairs window dominates the understated design. Here, a careful structural intervention was required, with part of the second storey structure cut away to accommodate a marquee addition.
Inside, a surprisingly spacious 252-square-metre home unfolds in an interplay of organic wood hues and pristine white surfaces. Light wood flooring anchors the main floor, with similar wood tones framing the kitchen and living space. While the home’s white surfaces create a tranquil canvas, wood elements add a sense of warmth and texture.
A complement to the artfully extruded windows that accent the home, the interior features a more subtle play of depth and angle. In the kitchen and living room, a pair of recessed, wood-clad alcoves bring a sense of coziness to the elegantly spartan abode.
Balancing openness and domestic comfort, the house wears its renovation tactfully, incorporating original elements — like the painted upstairs flooring — into a distinctly contemporary space.
At the heart of the space, the banister that wraps the stairs is a pleasant tubular counterpoint to the home’s otherwise sharp, rectilinear geometry. Here, the interplay of tones also delineates a transition to the more private spaces upstairs, including the showpiece bathroom overlooking the bucolic surroundings.
From a compact aging home, L. McComber has created a spacious and open new living environment. It’s a bold transformation, and one that extolls the possibilities of reuse and adaptation over the more expedient (and far more carbon-intensive) process of demolition and rebuilding.
In the Cité Jardin community, a tactful adaptation gives surprising new life to a post-war cottage.