The project Sails Benches, designed by Les Ateliers Guyon in Verchères, Qué., won in the Furniture Category at the prestigious World Interiors News Awards 2015 in London.
Félix Guyon, former face of “The Firm”, most recognized designing of the fourth Wharf (Quai no4) on Masson Street in Montreal, has decided to spread his wings. He has left the big city to settle in Vercheres, his native village. The municipality has commissioned M. Guyon to create a monument honoring the founding families of Vercheres in 1670. This urban structure, inspired by wind and water, transports us into a history that is as collective as it is personal.
“When the municipality has asked me to work on this project, I was immediately excited and also very inspired. Give me the opportunity to work on a monument honoring the village of my childhood and his ancestors – and giving me almost carte blanche – was a dream, and a way for me to say thank you to all those who built the place I love today. ”
Félix Guyon stands out for his artistic approach to design. Promoting a very polished aesthetic, contrasting eras, styles and materials, he seeks to create pieces that are unique as opposed to industrialized. By using quality materials and working with local artisan, he promotes Québec’s expertise here and abroad.
It is this approach that attracted the attention of the team from the municipality of Vercheres, a small village 30 minutes from Montreal on the banks of the St. Lawrence. “When Martin Massicotte, the city planner, told me about his idea, I immediately transported to the seventeenth century, a time without roads; when the only means of transportation was a ship, propelled by water and wind. The idea for the project came to life. ”
The concept is simple: create an unusual work where users can comfortably sit and contemplate to the sound of wind and waves, along the majesty of the banks of the St. Lawrence. The designer wanted to create a memorial while integrating functional street furniture. And so he imagined t majestic sails of white oak, concrete and metal, echoing the chapter in history and to be installed where Fort Vercheres stood in 1670. The white oak was chosen by the designer as the same wood was used in the seventeenth century for the construction of sailboats and barrels.
This area of the St. Lawrence is especially prone to a rapidly changing and sometimes violent weather. Winds can reach 90km an hour. Mist, smog, ice and snow can be very abundant due to the proximity of the river. Moreover, for aesthetic and ergonomic reasons, the work must be tilted 10 degrees – both to give the impression of sails flying- and for users to be comfortable. Manufacturing and foundations have been carefully designed to withstand the considerable weight (over 900lbs) and accommodate the shape of the sails. “After several months of discussions between the engineer, the metal team at Soudures Richer, the wood team at Chaloupe Verchères, the municipality’s planning team, and myself, we have come to this final result which is both poetic and structurally foolproof!”
What was most important while working on this project was to work only with and engage people who live in the village. The work should evoke collective pride. As they did throughout history, local artisans have come together to build a monument that will make future generations proud.
For Félix Guyon’s, overseeing a project is much like a conductor directing the musicians in his orchestra. He relates creation to an intricate ballet between form, materials, manufacturing techniques, and structural and cost challenges. All this must be carefully considered and validated with each pencil stroke in the design process, before adding a touch of wonder and poetry.
“I can spend days and nights working to achieve this balance. In these moments, my brain is at full throttle and my weeks go by like hours! I navigate the technical and economic constraints, using only my artistic instincts as a compass. ”
Following his studies in France, after working in architecture in London and having accumulated many years of experience in design in Montreal at “The Firm”, Félix Guyon decided to return to his small hometown of Vercheres. He hopes to find tranquility and inspiration through the people who live there and who, like him, love their village. “I have long sought to find the essence of myself, and gone far in my travels to find that essence, but I did not realize it was here, under my nose, in my own little village. The river, seasons, and people- Everything makes so much more sense now! ”
It is no coincidence that Félix Guyon named his company Les Ateliers Guyon. The name originated in the 1970s, and was the design company founded by his family. The young designer now wants to take the old name into the future. “My grandfather was a cabinetmaker and manufactured Vercheres boats in the 1940s. My father and mother still carve Plexiglas. From generation to generation, we have always had a love of working with our hands, making something from scratch. Now that it’s my turn to be the artisan in the family, I hope to instill the same values in my nearly year-old son; the willingness to work hard, create something you love, and have a real passion for a job well done!”
Official Project Name: Sails Park benches
Location: Vercheres / Montreal
Client: Municipality of Vercheres
Designer: Les Ateliers Guyon
Project Leader: Félix Guyon
Contributors: Soudures Richer et Chaloupes Verchères
Engineers: Luc Dery
Budget: $ 22,000
End date of the project: October 11, 2013
Photographer: Félix Guyon