Kim’s Notebook

April 10, 2020

A note book by Amélie Desrochers — Flanked by her partner and her two twins, in creative retreat / semi-quarantine, and mere moments before the era of social distancing begins, Kim Pariseau joins us at the Gardens.

This may very well be the perfect moment for us to take a step back and consider our connection to nature, our relationship with time, what it means to build a sustainable business, and the choices we make in search of happiness.

Kim is the founder of Appareil Architecture, a boutique Montreal architecture firm that dreams big and steers clear of the beaten path.

“Slowing down …now that takes time. It takes a few days to adapt. But it allows us to find new vantage points, see things differently, to re-ground ourselves”

And what role does nature play in it all? How do we include it in the equation?

For Kim, who studied in Denmark, nature is at the heart of her approach.

“Being able to isolate in nature with my family – my kids – reminds me of why I do what I do”

Since day one, Kim has wanted to make sustainability a cornerstone of her venture. For her, the path forward depends mainly on asking the right questions. In 2019, she and her team participated in the Parcours Developpement Durable to obtain their EcoCert certification.

Surprise surprise: an ecologically sustainable approach goes well beyond the question of which materials to use. Above all, it’s a matter of finding both internal and external harmony. For Kim, it’s primarily shaped by her employees’ wellbeing, “the care not to burn them out”, but also by better relationships with her entire ecosystem of stakeholders. It’s the whole supply chain that must evolve together towards a new set of best practices. And again, we must ask ourselves the right questions and face the issues they bring to light if we truly want to change things. We must choose to work with the right people and agree on a common goal. In other words: we must insist first and foremost on a collaborative approach. 

“We have to make sure that our choices are firmly grounded in our values. Valuing local producers., our local suppliers – the things made here at home”

Kim is always a little perplexed when her design is deemed “Scandinavian”. She would have opted for “nordic” … an appropriately homegrown adjective. Of course, the Scandinavians have been cultivating their design knowledge and expertise for quite some time now, and there are clearly many things we can learn from their efforts. But why not try to seek our inspiration here, as opposed to looking abroad?

“We have a new narrative that will create a strong sense of identity for Quebec and Canada. We have to stand out”

To accomplish this, architecture as a profession has to be democratized, celebrated and made accessible to the greater public. We must raise people’s awareness, show them it’s possible to build things thoughtfully, even on a small scale and budget. We need more local architects to speak up about their practices.

To that effect, Kim names Pierre Thibault, a well-known Canadian architect who also has a knack for putting things into words. She notes that, just like the Gardens, he’s done a lot to educate and raise awareness. 

“The more we speak as a collective, the more the profession will progress. Architects have a lot to say and contribute. We don’t yet do that enough in Quebec”

But the work doesn’t end there. Even when the client is already convinced of the role architecture can play, we still have to stop and ask ourselves the right questions as a project begins. This strategic approach at the outset of a project can destabilize some people. The team questions the relevance of certain needs, like the desired square footage.

“We try to contaminate our clients, to push them into further reflection, to go beyond the Pinterest aesthetic.”

So what does Kim see in Quebec design’s future in this time of crisis and self-appraisal? Simply put, never stop asking WHY. Choose a variety of projects, weigh the pros and cons, and increasingly clarify the “why” of each project.

Kim Pariseau has an education in interior design and architecture. Having studied both in Quebec and in Denmark, she focuses on nordic architecture. Kim has accumulated 15 years of professional experience. After having won first prize at the Concours International de Design de Montreal for the design of the Champs de Mars site, and having worked for a number of well-established architectural firms, she founded her own firm in 2010. Since then, she has worked on numerous projects falling broadly into three categories: private residences, cottages and commercial projects.

As the recipient of the 2016 “Emerging Talent” prize awarded by the Canadian Architect magazine and the 2017 “Best of Canada” prize for her designs of the Hoogan et Beaufort restaurants in Montreal, she has built a considerable reputation for herself in the fields of architecture and design Her work is singled out and applauded by her peers. In 2020, Appareil architecture is proud to find itself in the “Jeunes pousses” category of the very first shortlist of “Première en affaire” magazine’s female-lead business ranking.

The projects led by architect Kim Pariseau are all deeply rooted in the Nordic culture: pared down and in tune with their context. Thus, the French expression “dans le plus simple APPAREIL” – which echoes the name of Kim’s firm and roughly translates to “the bare essentials” – becomes synonymous with an architecture where each element refers to its essence and stands out through its simplicity, while also offering a richness of experience and execution. Her projects are grounded in ethical and ecological choices. Kim Pariseau attaches a great deal of importance to the values inherent in sustainability, as much through the choice of materials as through the choice of construction techniques and the application of local expertise.

In 2017, Kim created APPAREIL Atelier, the younger sibling to APPAREIL Architecture, which explores and executes various concepts with an audacity and a curiosity all its own. Putting forward local expertise, this new firm designs furniture and custom-made solutions made in Quebec.

Photographer: Félix Michaud