Bernier says he often finds synthetic materials disappointing, especially if they're imitations of natural materials. "Synthetic materials often don’t age well. They go from looking new to looking decrepit—whereas natural materials, like a brass handrail, will oxidize and polish itself with time and use, making it even more beautiful than when it was first installed," says Bernier.
A number of his most interesting projects are located within rural areas, where factors like views, sun exposure, vegetation, topography, and wind direction help lead the design. He plays on the strengths of the site while minimizing the impact of its weaknesses. His designs are also guided by the ergonomics of his clients' day-to-day lives.
Take a look at seven homes that exemplify his design approach.
Cor-Ten steel is used for the exterior cladding of this house near Charlebois Lake in Ontario, Canada. Once installed, the steel panels developed a beautiful orange patina as a result of oxidation. When the surface is covered, the oxidation stops and the inner portion of the steel plate is protected.
This low-rise house has a sinuous shape that was guided by the nature that surrounds it. The building itself folds, opens, and tightens like a river digging its bed. On the south side is a large window opening that bends outwards to connect with the surroundings.
Built within an elevated clearing in the forest, the U-shaped "day block" section of this house sits on the highest point of the plateau, creating a courtyard that opens on one side and presents a view of the downhill slope. The "night block" section of the house advances along the natural slope to become a two-story volume with a garage underneath.
This ski holiday, mountain cottage for a family with two children features a roof slope that's inverted to the site’s topography, which results in a design with two levels on its south end with wide openings, and a low facade that's protected by a car shelter on the north section.
For his own family home, Bernier added two glass-and-wood volumes with similar dimensions to an existing house. One was placed on top of the roof, while the other was placed in the garden under a big maple tree.
The interiors of this single-story, shoe box-style house in Montreal’s Little Italy is separated into two areas: the parents' zone and the children’s zone. They're demarcated by a large black cedar wall that runs from the front to the back.
In the open-concept living and dining area on the ground floor, steel beams with great spans of uninterrupted columns support a ceiling made of cedar boards. A floating staircase of steel and wood link the three floors of the house.