Construction Law Straight Lines
By : Jean-Maxime Labrecque, architecte
GRANDS PRIX DU DESIGN – 16th edition
Discipline : Interior Design
Categories : Office / Office: Professional & Financial Service Firms : Gold Certification
Categories : Special Awards / Interior Design +Wood : Gold Certification
Roy Bastien avocats
Construction Law Straight Lines
1 . Question
How to define construction law in architectural terms?
Through an intervention that directly and without mannerism expresses architecture, construction and its systems. A project that can be dismantled and recycled, an approach demanded by today’s and tomorrow’s worlds.
2 . Site
Martin André Roy and Mélanie Bastien, lawyers and spouses, bought a commercial ground floor shop window, a former bakery, to establish their construction law practice. The space is located at the corner of Rachel and St-Dominique streets on the Plateau Mont-Royal in central Montreal.
3 . Program
The program consists of 3 offices, a conference room, a mediation room, a kitchen, WC, a cloakroom as well as a mezzanine to access the electromechanical equipment.
4 . Demolition
The commercial unit is part of a large industrial building that used to house a jeans manufacturer, Paris Star Jeans. The previous owners had covered the 1000 square feet with different materials; walls and ceilings were painted, ceramic tiles covered the ground and miscellaneous drywall partitions had been built to hide electromechanical components as well as old cooking equipment from the bakery.
The first step consisted in the demolition of existing surfaces in order to make the original building re-emerge. A terrazzo floor was found underneath the tiles. The scars resulting from of old sub-slab plumbing work have been preserved as marks of the building’s history. Sandblasting the ceiling, northern common wall and building structure uncovered the original concrete construction. From behind the drywall layers a formidable 24 inches high spandrel beam supporting the building’s south-estern and south-western facades also reappeared. Also buried under drywall layers were a column and its capital that would become the star features of the space.
5 . A single gesture, made from a single element, integrating all functions
The intervention is delicately unfolded in this setting of rich textures. It is a wooden sculpture made of wooden slats, a constrcution element conceived for massive wooden floors. Its usage here is diverted. It is employed horizontally but also vertically.
244 slats measuring 14′-4 » long, 16 » wide and 2 1/2 » thick (glued-laminated timber (GLT) decking) were ordered and delivered directly on site. According to the structural/sculptural logic, a rule was imposed on the general contractor for construction: only right angle or 45 degrees cuts were allowed. Assemblage between wood members was acheived with steel angles brackets and/or lag bolts.
Everything was made out of these prefabricated wooden slats: mezzanine floor, partitions, doors, handrail, tables, office desks, countertops, tables legs, stairs, the WC vanity, doors, cloakroom, storage shelves and bookshelves. This integrative approach of uniting all the functions in a single sculpture is part of Jean-Maxime Labrecque architect’s tenets since 1995. One of his past key projects following this approach is the 2007-2011 Inhabitable Sculpture.
6 . Wood
The omnipresence of wood, furthermore of massive wood, has a soothing effect in this office set within an urban context. One feels here as if in the middle of a forest. The street corner that faces the “Parc des Amériques” welcomes urban dwellers of varying profiles and often brings about joyous and surprising scenes. Life, as it unfolds on the other side of the large glass panes, can be watched like a movie (with or without popcorn).
The modularity of the construction elements recalls the way it is made in the shop. Its positioning, specific, millimetric, aims at harmony. With their high ceiling, the central narrow individual offices are comfortable monasterial cells. The space where continuous classical music can be heard during working hours, creates a meditative mood.
7 . Light integration
Three monumental wooden steles partition half of the space into offices and welcome the visitor. Spotlights are inserted between the two rows of decking of which they are made, on the ceiling, at a height of 14′. Their light accentuates the verticality of the gesture and constitues the space’s signature in the evening.
A variety of lights types enable the creation of different moods in each room. A row of linear lights calls attention to the spandrel beam. Sprinklers are transformed into light fixtures by the integration of linear LED strips facing the ceiling, giving the space an indirect light effect. Finally, directional spots illuminate the work surfaces, columns and floor in more delineated ways.
8 . Systems exhibition
The exposure of electromechanical components called for a high precision approach – which is always demanding when working with the relevant subcontractors. Pulsed air heating and air conditioning called for a precise scaling and positioning in order to insert them precisely between the vertical wooden modules separating the rooms. Likewise for the EMT piping, the electrical outlets and switches, each of them contributing to the overall architectural tableau. We couldn’t let them pollute this sanctuary, this homage to the essence of what construction is.
Please note that, on the photos, the office chairs have been removed to show the wooden sculpture in its purest form.
In a few words, this construction law lawyers office is entirely made out of one single material, massive wood, avoiding any drywall construction.
Furthermore, everything is built out of one typical element, cut according to the various program needs.
It is entirely demountable and recyclable.
The combination of these simple principles is, for us, a statement in itself. An approach demanded by today’s and tomorrow’s world.