Québec’s Centre Est-Nord-Est smartens up with a new barn-like headquarters

Rural and Ready

A hub for woodcarving, the quite Québecois village of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli has long been a top destination for specialized artisans and connoisseurs for the past three decades. They’ve come from around the world to immersive themselves in an ever-growing hive of activity and exchange. Anchoring this fledging scene is the Centre Est-Nord-Est residency program; for which makeshift premises were called home until recently.

Designed by Québec City-based Bourgeois / Lechasseur architectes, a brand-new 3000 square foot facility furnishes the burgeoning platform with well-appointed live-in studios, shared common spaces, and administrative offices.

A metal spiral stairwell cuts through the minimalistic plywood monolith that encloses offices below and pedestals a cozy library above. (Adrien Williams)

The building's barn-like structure translates into vaulted volumes throughout the project. (Adrien Williams)

Located on the outskirts of town, the angular, monolithic structure strikes an impressive profile. The barn-like building is reminiscent of the region’s vernacular farm architecture, often constructed to withstand extreme weather conditions. It’s sharply-pitched, metal sheet-clad roof encapsulates a series of bedroom mezzanines, directly adjacent to five individual ensuite workshops—as well as double-height multifunctional rooms—while a large seemingly disguised courtyard cuts through its core.

The project's refined palette of soft metalics, whites, and light wood serve as the perfect subdued backdrop for new works of art.

Five ensuite studios offer artists in residency much needed quiet and focus. (Adrien Williams)

Centre Est-Nord-Est’s recessed, wood-lined entrance hints at the material palette prevalent inside; where white-glazed, gypsum-board walls, and polished concrete floors are juxtaposed by vast expanses of plywood paneling and delicately implemented metal accents. This multifunctional space, the true heart of the project, serves as a meeting point, lounge, exhibition area, community kitchen, and dining room.

One accesses a quieter library zone via a voluptuously curved spiral staircase. Carefully framed skylights are carved out of the sloping ceiling, flooding the upper level with natural light while the main floor is mostly lit through large exposures, leading to the adjacent cut-out courtyard.

A cleverly courtyard cut-out helps delineate private and public areas within the otherwise monolithic extrusion. (Adrien Williams)

The unfussy and inexpensive design champions a somewhat rugged yet refined aesthetic, conducive to the building’s program and surroundings. Though seemingly understated, Centre Est-Nord-Est’s architecture is the star of the show but only until it becomes a backdrop for new wood-carved masterpieces.

Floor-plans of the Centre Est-Nord-Est reveal the distribution of private and public spaces in the new facility. (Courtesy Bourgeois / Lechasseur architectes)