A businessman decides to move his family to Town of Mount Royal and hires architect Michael Pitsas to build their new home. The encounter takes them further than either could have imagined.
The European-born client had been told that he, his wife, and their two teenagers would find this central Montreal suburb a pleasant place to live. Created in 1921 on the initiative of the Canadian Northern Railway, Town of Mount Royal was intended to be a model city, inspired by Washingon, D.C. Finding a lot to build on, however, proved practically impossible, given the maturity of the housing market. The client eventually found a property on Rockland Road – a house that had been empty for several years. It was a teardown, really, particularly since decontamination was required. Enter architect Michael Pitsas, an expert mainly in commercial construction. The two men agreed upon a plan to build a cottage with a split-level feel, like so many of the beautiful homes on the boulevard. The Town approved, since the house would mesh well with the urban fabric. At 10,000 sq. ft. covering two floors and a basement, the size of the home was appropriate for its immediate neighbours: a school and a large park.
The architect decided that life in the home would be drawn towards the back, where lots of windows (Alumilex) would look out onto a lovely yard, complete with swimming pool. For privacy and quiet, he first built a rectangular structure housing the garage, entrance way, and a library. Beyond this sound barrier lies the L-shaped living area. The view from the front door takes in the whole layout, including the exterior. The eye is drawn immediately to a striking fireplace in the centre of the house. Clad in Italian marble, this remarkable construction rises more than 20 feet and is what Michael Pitsas and his colleague, Patricia Boileau, call a “sculptural structure.” A sinuous staircase and a stainless steel column are other examples.
The architect acknowledges that he had an outstanding client : a cultivated man of excellent taste, someone who appreciates beautiful things. The two worked hand in glove, outdoing each other in their quest for perfection. Neither hesitated to reconsider the smallest detail, or even change a concept completely to achieve a better result. Michael Pitsas never tracked his hours, well aware that he was realizing the architectural project of his life with this very willing partner. In fact, by the end of two and half years, the two had become friends. Pitsas bent over backwards to find materials nobody else was using, including sumptuous marbles and rare woods : strikingly veined Tuscan cipollino marble for the living room, with warmth provided by makore wood from Africa, suggested by the architect’s friend and cabinetmaker Marfoglia. To ensure they would have enough wood, they even bought the tree while it was still standing ! Client and architect were so completely on the same wavelength, that the former allowed the latter to choose glasses and dishware, and even paintings by known artists (Galerie Bellefeuille). At the start of this adventure, neither man had any idea it would grow to such remarkable heights. But such is the result of the creative synergy of two men, fueled by a shared passion for beauty.
Photos: Adrien Williams