From Jayme Catalano
Black Box II achieves a subtle balance between the old and new, preserving authentic, iconic details while integrating a bold new design. Architect Natalie Dionne spearheaded the dramatic renovation of the semi-detached brick townhouse located in the Notre Dame de Grace neighborhood of Montreal, Quebec. The original structure, typical of the area, has been updated with two black parallelipeds arranged in a quincunx. Juxtaposed with the rich texture and color of the red clay bricks, the subtly iridescent black metal addition enhances the original features while adding much-needed living space.
Originally conceived as a jewel box that would evoke precious objects and fine woodworking, Natalie Dionne envisioned, “a box covered with smooth and black material on the outside and blonde wood on the inside.” Large sheets of lustrous black fibrocement were assembled using fine rivets to form two connecting prisms, complete with large opening glass walls. A circular motif perforates the second floor loggia, imbuing a sense of delicacy and light. Blonde wood, light walls, and a bright porcelain kitchen floor illuminate the interior.
In renovating the original, nondescript, prototypical structure, Dionne opened up the living spaces using three-panel NanaWall folding glass walls set into the addition. When opened, the walls seamlessly connect the outdoor and indoor spaces, creating both visual and physical expansiveness. When closed, the large panels with narrow stiles facilitate the unobstructed views that bath the blonde wood and porcelain surfaces in natural light.
Interior design elements complement the exterior landscaping. A dividing fence made of Western cedar wood lattice echoes the original oak wood flooring in the dining room as well as the wood island in the kitchen. A slate terrace flows into the concrete-like porcelain floor tiles in the kitchen. Black furniture echoes the black metal architectural elements.
The project was a collaboration in the vein of constructive art: the architect, builders, and the owners were all actively involved in the pursuit of aesthetic and technical excellence. The addition, though relatively small in size, has made a huge impact, increasing natural light, usable living space, and adding considerable visual distinction.