Student: Mylène Moliner-Roy
Advisor: Howard Davies
Studio: Directed Research Project
Year/Term: Fall 2015
Exploring the cultural value of architecture, the project investigated the future of North Hatley, a small village in the Eastern Townships of Québec.
The first part of my thesis studied the history of North Hatley, while questionning how architecture communicated knowledge, values and ideologies over time. The village was built primarily in the late 19th, early 20th century by wealthy progressive Americans who escaped to the countryside in reaction to the rise of industrialization and consumerist culture. They sought a balance between tradition and modernity by adopting a rustic lifestyle while on vacation. The colonial revival style was chosen to convey progressive ideas and promote the importance of a sense of place, nationalism, simplicity, durability and robustness. Yet, in North Hatley, progressivism and colonial revival style failed to reconcile traditional American aesthetics and modern values. The colonial forms endured more affirmatively than their subjacent ‘modern’ ideas, and the image of North Hatley was transformed, moving away from an avant-garde community to a nostalgic countryside ideal. The colonial revival aesthetic has proven to be deceiving; instead of sustaining a sense of identity and traditional values, it has led to the transformation of the village into a conventional touristic experience.
The second part of my thesis revisits some progressive ideals such as modesty and robustness and proposes to develop North Hatley into a creative centre. Craftsmanship and creativity become a medium to raise awareness about the value of goods and to engage in the debate on consumerism. The former railroad axis becomes the stage for a creative core that unifies the centre of the village, sustains the touristic interest and introduces a business incubator to encourage the development of a permanent economy in the village. Reinterpreting vernacular forms and building methods, the design strategy reverts to preconceptions of the traditional aesthetics defining North Hatley to propose a contemporary building that respects the spirit of place. This community hall stretches from the main street to the lakefront, reinterpreting the local architectural culture beyond the colonial revival. Altogether, the proposal explores the symbolic value of form and architectural language to mediate between the rich heritage of the village, its current condition and its future.