Enjoy Spectacular Mountainscapes from Québécois Design Masterpiece

Situated on the shores of the St. Laurence River in Québec’s mountainous Charlevoix region, Long Horizontals doesn’t fail to impress skiers and wanderers passing by on their day out. The home, realised by Canadian architect studio ThellendFortin, combines a striking aesthetic with innovative design choices.

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Responsible for the design is architectural duo Lisa-Marie Fortin and Louis Thellend. Drawing their inspiration from the surrounding environment, they created a house plan that provides a direct view of the landscape from each of the building’s rooms. Making the most of this attempt is the dining room, isolated from the living area and stretching out over the slope the house is on.

We asked Lisa and Louis about their design process as well as the special details that make Long Horizontals what it is.

THE PLUS: To start off, tell us about the beauty of the St. Lawrence River area, where the house is located.
Lisa-Marie Fortin & Louis Thellend:
The project is located in a great area named Charlevoix. It’s a place with high cliffs and mountains with superb views overlooking the St Lawrence River, l’Isle-aux-Coudres Island and the Bas-Saint-Laurent region on the opposite shore of the river. The river’s size increases at this point of its route, slowly becoming a gulf. The landscape of the shores on either side is a wonderful inspiration for architectural projects.

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TP: In your project description, you explained how you drew inspiration from its location. How did it influence your design choices?
The concept was directed at the view of different interest points: the river, the ski station, and l’Isle-aux-Coudres. We wanted each room to have a direct view on the landscape, which is why we divided the house in several volumes. We created a translation with those volumes to avoid one blocking the view of another. Furthermore, to differentiate each room, we played with different ceiling heights. This gives different ambiances inside the house.  

TP: The house features long horizontals and short verticals, dark stone and light wood: what do you like about these contrasts?
We wanted to underline the horizon to better seize the majestic view. The exterior design follows this main idea. The vertical concrete blocks serve to attach the house to the cliff and to balance the harmony between the horizontals and verticals. We used different tones of dark chromatic to contrast with the white snow during winter and the green vegetation during summer.

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TP: The dining room stretches into the open space, providing an impressive view of the surrounding landscape. Tell us about your ideas behind this room.
We designed the dining room with the idea to isolate this space from the main living area – without using doors. We wanted to have a room with a 180-degree view on the St Lawrence River. Projecting the dining area to the horizon, we aimed to seize all the surrounding panorama.

TP: What was your biggest challenge in this project?
The biggest challenge was to design a house well-grounded to its site, with a magnificent view, but without any point of reference. At the beginning, all of it was completely hidden in the evergreen forest, so it was difficult to capture the real view. With the help of the land surveyor – and Google Maps – we figured out the main points of interests and built our design on it.

TP: Between the two of you, who focused on what part of the design?
Generally speaking, Louis had the first idea for the project, its architectural gesture and the concept, while I worked more on electricity, plumbing and interior finishes. I am better with refining the concept into details and interior organisation. This was the case for Long Horizontals, too. For the interior design, Louis focused on the stairs as well as on the numerous fireplaces, while I mostly took care of the kitchen and the bathrooms.

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TP: Why did you opt for the dominant, concrete chimneys?
The chimneys acted as a better way to anchor the house to the slope.

TP: Tell us about the ecological, sustainable character of the building.
We used local materials to build the house. We also opened the house on the south side to provide for direct sunlight to heat the concrete floors. 

TP: Working on Long Horizontals as a team, were there any difficult decisions you had different opinions on?
Not really, actually. The clients were really interested in the design process. They trusted us on the main ideas of the project, but we did have to discuss most details to find a consensus.

TP: What is the most innovative element of Long Horizontals?
We wanted a discreet and quiet elevation on the street but on the opposite side, we achieved a real dramatic facade, overlooking the river.

TP: Finally, what is your favourite room or element of Long Horizontals?
The living room with the concrete fireplace and its reading corner, with a view on the ski station.

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