Roger D'Astous

Roger D'Astous, architect (b at Montréal, Que 3 March 1926; d at Montréal, Que 5 April 1998). A graduate of the Montréal School of Fine Arts in 1952, he went on to win a Taliesin Fellowship, spending from August 1952 to July 1953 in the studios of Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin and Arizona. Although his ARCHITECTURE was always inspired by Wright's principles, D'Astous gradually came to take on great originality of form.

Roger D'Astous began his career in Montréal in 1953. His first two works were a home (Laurion house, Laval-sur-le-Lac, 1954-55) and a church (Notre-Dame-du-Bel-Amour, Cartierville, 1955-56), two building types for which he would become renowned and which brought him immediate success. He was twice as prolific between 1955 and 1967 as during the other 30 years of his career. His 12 churches, characterized by a quest for mystery and primitivism, were all from that period. He built a number of luxury homes primarily in the Montréal area and in eastern Ontario, where he also designed a number of smaller commercial buildings. Riding the wave of energy that swept the Montréal construction industry in the 1960s, he built the Christian Pavilion at EXPO 67 (1965-67), the Beaubien metro station (1962-66) and a major hotel, the Chateau Champlain (1963-67). During the same period, he worked with Jean-Paul Pothier, who remained his partner from 1965 until Pothier's death in 1968.

The financial disaster into which the Chateau Champlain pulled D'Astous put a sudden end to the honeymoon years of his early career. Between 1968 and 1976, he built only two houses and one apartment building (Appartements Saint-Jean, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, 1969-70). He dedicated the rest of his time to a number of research projects, including a construction system he baptized "Para-module." The system consisted of a standardized series of juxtaposed sunbreaks configured to form inverse pyramids mounted on posts that allowed water to run off. One house was built using this system (Larose house, Lac Guindon, 1973).

In 1974, D'Astous began working with Luc Durand, who remained his associate through to the end of his career. Their first commission was the Olympic Village (1974-76), which, like Roger D'Astous's other most ambitious project to date, the Chateau Champlain, turned into a nightmare. D'Astous and his partner became the innocent victims of a financial scandal that was subjected to a lengthy investigation, which paralysed their business for five years.

The year 1984 marked the dawn of a renaissance for D'Astous. His projects remained few and consisted almost entirely of residences; however, the period was characterized by a new creative effervescence that lasted until his career's end. He had dreamt for many years of designing architecture reflecting Nordic and Canadian influences. He placed great emphasis on interior treatments, which he thought should evoke a feeling of protection in the same manner as exteriors. His homes in this style featured large slanted panels with roofs often sloping downward as far as ground level. These innovative shapes, which he had previously incorporated into the Lussier house (Saint-Bruno, 1963-65), were featured in all of his later residential designs as well as in the building housing the offices of the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada (Pointe-Claire, 1993-94).

He was recognized with a number of awards during this period: the Montréal Chamber of Commerce presented him with a Habitas certificate of excellence in 1967 for his achievements in housing design, while the Canadian Wood Council bestowed an award for the Gélinas house the following year (Bromont, 1985-87).