Agog in Magog

Project Country House, Magog, Quebec

Architect Henri Cleinge, Architecte

Text Ian Chodikoff

Photos Adrian Buitenhuis

Situated in southeastern Quebec at the confluence of Lake Memphrmagog, the Salmon River and the Magog River, is the small city of Magog. The centre of a resort area, Magog boasts shops and services catering to vacationers and tourists in a predominantly flat geography dotted with large lakes.

For Montreal architect Henri Cleinge, this project represents an evolution in his quest to produce simple, contemporary projects in and around Montreal, such as his recently completed townhouses along St-Urbain Street, the Narcisse & cho hair salon, and the Rservoir microbrewery. Cleinge’s latest project is a two-bedroom house representing the architectural equivalent of a middle-ground resolution between a young client’s acceptance of what might constitute a contemporary home and the direction in which an architect wants to ultimately guide his practice. The house was designed for a young couple working in the Montreal film industry who wanted a simple weekend retreat; this eventually evolved into requiring a full-blown second home. With the film industry primarily operating through contract employment, those working in it such as Cleinge’s clients are often afforded extended periods of time to live away from their base in Montreal.

Even young clients sometimes have to be convinced of contemporary architecture. Catering to their design sensibilities, Cleinge offered them an abundant palette of natural materials. With an overall area of approximately 2,200 square feet, the exterior materials include cedar, marine plywood and cementitious board. Located near Lake Memphrmagog, the house does not enjoy a lakefront view, but is sited to shield itself from the traffic to and from a nearby golf course. Simple in its overall massing, the north faade is opaque while the south faade is more transparent with a series of stoic double-glazed windows arrayed along the ground floor and a trio of windows arranged across the upper level. The roughly cut and thickly dimensioned cedar siding complements the deep, black-framed windows so that the entire faade remains compositionally integral. Marine plywood is used to unify some of the various windows, drawing them to datum points defined by eaves, floor levels and corner conditions. Cleinge capped the project with a flat canted roof to help define the character of the residence, and the generous seven-foot overhang has a soffit clad in cementitious board.

The interior is equally simple in its architectural hierarchy: walls are white, windows are finished in clear anodized aluminum, floors are Ip and guardrails are maple. The narrowness of the floor plate accentuates the double-height space flanked by two bedrooms and a washroom. The lightness and integrity of the black-painted steel walkway is enhanced by pulling it back from the northern wall.

The design process took approximately six months. What became a major challenge for the architect was finding an appropriate contractor who could provide an acceptable price to build the project. Very few contractors operate in the Eastern Townships so Cleinge was delighted to finally meet Martin Charbonneau, a local contractor. Having never worked with him before, Cleinge was pleased with their positive working relationship: details were efficiently coordinated, and costs were kept under control. Operating a small office with only one other employee–Catherine Trottier–means that finding the time to conduct field reviews and site meetings in Magog while operating a busy office in Montreal is challenging. Cleinge would leave Montreal at 6:00 am for an 8:00 am meeting with the contractor, only to be back in his office in Montreal by noon.

In August, Cleinge will begin construction on a concrete-and-steel residence to be built near Lac Bromeau. A far more conceptual project underway is a cottage near Mont Tremblant which is intended to be a contemporary version of a traditional French-Canadian house. Starting his firm seven years ago, Cleinge’s first projects mostly involved renovations, but his St-Urbain townhouse project increased his profile amongst his colleagues and within the public sphere, momentum that will hopefully allow him to advance a practice focused on residential and commercial projects. Finding himself gaining access to a more discerning clientele, he notes, “All of a sudden you find yourself part of a different community.” Cleinge will undoubtedly encounter more opportunities to develop his practice while continuing to refine his desire to explore and distill his designs.

Client Withheld

Architect Team Henri Cleinge, Catherine Trottier

Structural Calculatec–Alain Mousseau

Contractor Martin Charbonneau

Area 2,200 Ft2

Budget $500,000

Completion December 2005