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Maison Denison by ADHOC Architectes


The small hamlet of Denison Mills, located in the Eastern Townships of Québec, Canada, was established by the Denison family, American settlers, nearly 200 years ago. The hamlet was once home to 150 inhabitants and was located along the road that connected Quebec City to Boston. Today, only four buildings remain, including the flour mill, which was converted into a private residence after being classified as a heritage site in 1973. ADHOC Architectes has now been tasked with restoring and adapting the annex of the Denison family's farm house, to meet the needs of the new occupants, a couple with a passion for history and literature, who settled there in 2006 to raise their three children.

Choosing to preserve the architectural heritage of the building, the clients sought to increase their living space by converting the historic outbuilding of the house into a library that opens to the outside, office, garage, and future dormitory. ADHOC Architectes' work on this home in the Val-des-Sources Heritage area has resulted in a peaceful and charming new space that blends in with its surroundings, giving the impression that it has always been there.

The decision to renovate and reuse the existing building rather than demolish it and build anew was made with consideration for the environment. The architects at ADHOC Architectes strengthened the structure using reclaimed hemlock beams. To ensure eco-friendliness, locally produced hemp wool was selected for insulation, and the roof was made of durable sheet metal. This renovation not only showcases sensitivity to the architectural heritage but also demonstrates a commitment to sustainability.

“While some historic buildings built in Quebec are falling into disrepair and see their future uncertain, the owners of this bicentennial residence have chosen to renovate, rather than demolish and rebuild. The Denison project thus pays homage to the regional character of ancestral farmhouses, while adapting them for today's needs,” says Jean-François Saint-Onge, creative director and partner at ADHOC Architectes.

In the 1830s, the main stone house was built with a focus on thermal comfort. The surrounding landscape, used for agriculture, was designed for productive value instead of its scenic beauty. This resulted in a gradual addition of annex buildings that split the 83-acre site into two parts.

To reconnect the new residents with nature, the architects installed large windows on either side of the building. During the summer, these openings provide access to the outdoors and in the colder months, they bring in natural light and offer views of the surrounding agricultural land and forest.

Like a changing landscape over time, the volumes of the residence express the contrast of their respective eras through their design. The exterior of the annex features a harmonious blend of cedar shingles, white clapboard, and metallic materials in grey steel and black awning, complementing the stone house. The annex and stone house have always been connected, with ADHOC Architectes preserving the existing openings and repositioning the entrance to consolidate the two structures.

The connecting space on the ground floor has been transformed into an entrance vestibule that separates the original spaces of the stone house and the new, contemporary spaces in the annex. The architects played with heights and selected materials, such as a slate floor, to create a smooth transition. This flooring is a nod to the historical quarries of Shipton Township and the exterior cladding of the house.

The new living space is a place dedicated to literature, with a modular winter reading room and an office overlooking the space. The first step in the renovation was to stabilize the structure of the building, which had sagged over time. The use of the full height of the cathedral ceiling helps to add volume and diffuse light throughout the room. The application of a mixture of natural materials, with wood chosen in neutral tones, gives a harmonious, contemporary, and nevertheless timeless character to the room. The millwork installed along the walls, veneered in local white oak wood, is done in the book match style of the 1970s and is contrasted by a polished concrete slab. Upstairs, the ceiling is made of wooden laths, painted white, and is supported by exposed beams to add a more rustic touch.

All in all, this project unites ADHOC Architects' philosophy of architectural preservation, conserving the context’s heritage with Dominique and Valery’s love for history and literature. By bringing these shared values to the building, they have added to its legacy and written a new chapter in the history of Maison Denison. With the devoted care of Dominique Lebel and Valery Pigeon's family, the Denison site has a bright future ahead.


General contractor: Constructions Namasté
Photograpy: Maxime Brouillet

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