Mark Fekete and Viviana de Loera met in architecture school at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and later worked for architects in Los Angeles and San Francisco before they decided to establish their own firm in Montreal, Fekete’s hometown. (De Loera is from Zacatecas, Mexico.)
It wasn’t long before they tackled their first project: renovating an 800-square-foot former tire shop in the transitioning Montreal borough of Verdun into a versatile live/work studio for themselves and their nascent firm, MARK+VIVI.
"We wanted to create a home that served as a catalyst for the design community while providing opportunities for local artists who would otherwise not have a chance to exhibit their work," Fekete and de Loera said in a statement.
They opened up the lower level of the building, which dates to 1920, exposing structural supports and creating an open layout with a tiled alcove kitchen. Yellow accent walls add splashes of bold color. A bathroom and bedroom are located upstairs.
Sustainability was a guiding principle. The floors and custom cabinets were built with locally sourced Canadian plywood. All of the exposed surfaces were finished with low-VOC treatments. Double-glazed, low-emissivity windows and doors shield the space from the unforgiving Montreal winters.
But the structure’s best sustainable features, the architects say, have nothing to do with materials and everything to do with how they live in the space. "Coming from California," they said, "we realized the incredible waste of time and natural resources involved in daily commuting, not to mention the pollution. Living in Montreal, our goal is to eliminate our dependency on the car and to turn to public transportation. Now we work from home and do our part in eliminating vehicular pollution. The time we save not sitting in traffic is better spent becoming better acquainted with our neighborhoods, supporting local businesses, and living an overall healthier lifestyle."
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