From the very beginning of Strøm, a strong desire to convey authenticity in all its forms has driven every decision behind the projects. How significant is the role of raw materials used in the expressiveness of the site? How does the human touch eloquently contribute to letting the real thing shine through? Proud to be associated with the team of architects from LemayMichaud, Strøm is sensitive to the importance of human creativity on the realization of the structure, and that is precisely what this article will highlight.
1- The choice of material has a strong expressive value. While concrete evokes northern coldness, wood reminds us of the warm character of a place. How does the combination of materials contribute to the Strøm experience?
A Nordic spa experience is one of contrasts on all sensory levels. Whether it is hot and cold, huge and small, soft and rough, the variety of multiple sensory experiences leads to the state of well-being that is desired in a northern experience. Obviously, in a manmade environment, the use of several materials and colours allows the architect to orchestrate these sensory contrasts. Imagine a small cold bath with cold colours, in combination with a large warm and inviting room finished in wood. The user’s experience is all the more pleasant in an ensemble that is architecturally balanced, where different shades of colour and texture are harmoniously combined.
2- Allowing nature to come inside also means welcoming what each natural material expresses through its essence. Which natural materials did the LemayMichaud team choose and why?
A Nordic spa experience invites you to relax, meditate and escape. The materials used have to be consistent with this line of thinking, be it through their texture, their colour or their warmth. Stone and slate have a solidity and harmony that invite calmness. The use of warm woods that are also soft to the touch has helped to create cozy areas inviting people to warm up. In other places, white and glossy textures help visitors to clear their minds.
3- Materials made of raw substances are arranged in a way that leaves room for the natural, but at the same time, the beauty of the imperfections of those raw substances remind us of the authenticity of nature. Why choose to preserve the imperfection of materials and honour it rather than fix its apparent flaws?
The charm of a material is revealed in its details. The vein in a stone, the abrasion marks in wood, or the holes and formwork marks in concrete, these are all elements that make a place rich in textures and that will give it a timeless charm. The craze for barn wood is a good example: old planks, weathered and pierced with nails, give the wood character and a special look that is impossible to recreate with new planks.
4- The history of an old place gives it its symbolic richness and character. Was LemayMichaud’s team able to preserve the memories of the old building at the Strøm Mont-Saint-Hilaire? Is it going to be honoured in some way?
The destruction of the old building by the fire is a significant loss, as much for the clients of the spa as for the owners and architects of the building. Even if the old building did not meet the modern architectural criteria, it had a history that could not be recovered. It had a unique charm and character. For the reconstruction of the burnt building, we wanted to take inspiration from what it had represented in the mind of the clients, and rewrite the warm and inviting character of the old construction in a modern language. We have created generous, luminous spaces with high ceilings. We have opted for a traditional look in the geometry of the volume, with sloping roofs and gables. The materials we are using are warm and enveloping, while having a distinctly contemporary character.
5- Raw art leaves its footprints all over the world. Are some places internationally famous because of their tendency to let raw materials shine through?
The most famous example of raw art remains the Eiffel Tower, which during its construction for the Exposition Universelle of 1889 provoked huge protests throughout Paris, precisely because it brutally exposed its steel structure. Today, it is the most photographed monument in the world.
Other famous places:
- The Steilneset Memorial (Norway) by Peter Zumthor
- The Salk Institute (USA) by Louis Kahn
- Indian management Institute of Ahmedabad (India) by Louis Kahn
- The Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban (Bangladesh) by Louis Kahn
- The Raymond-Lévesque Library (Longueuil) by Manon Asselin and Jodoin-Lamarre-Pratte
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