Over the past few months we have gotten to work on a couple of projects that afford some exceptional architectural opportunities. This post, and subsequent installments, will document the process we take in the creation of two architecturally significant, environmentally-sensitive vacation homes. Both projects are waterfront homes sited on beautiful, large properties in rural Ontario.
The first project is on an island near Oliphant Ontario, and only accessible by boat in the summer (although when the shallow water that separates it from the mainland freezes, it is accessible by car in the winter). It is adjacent to one of the most popular kite surfing destinations in the country, and, in fact, this is the primary reason that the clients bought the property, being keenly enthusiastic about this sport. While near water, it doesn’t have the most dramatic view of the Western sunsets across Lake Huron. This, and the north orientation, are our initial site challenges.
The second project, not far from Parry Sound, is accessible by car year-round and located on a private lake. There is an existing series of structures scattered along the lake edge of the property, including a small gabled cottage, a boathouse, a garage/sauna, and a couple of sheds. On the land side of the cottage is a large cleared meadow suitable for sports like soccer and frisbee. This client has a larger set of requirements and a need for more spatial separation between various elements of the home in order to regularly accommodate the three generations that will live there, plus guests.
The objective of both projects is to accommodate all of the modern conveniences while being aggressively energy efficient and able to be shut-down to zero-energy buildings when not in use. It has been a key point of focus in our practice to reduce energy consumption in all of our buildings, but with second homes we have been exploring ways to further reduce energy by adapting the building for what we call ‘on-off usage’.
Our primary design instincts were fairly similar for the two projects: wanting to emphasize the view and site orientation, wanting to incorporate the new structures as seamlessly as possible into the existing landscape, but still wanting something striking, dynamic, and flexible. Despite the similar objectives, the resulting propositions were very different, driven by the cues within the landscape itself and the client’s objectives.
Here are a few of our schemes for the first project:
And here is the scheme that has emerged as the favourite, both for us and for the client:
In this scheme, the view played a really important role, as did the metaphor of the kite surfing. The long drawn out ‘boomerang’ of the canopy is reminiscent of the kite used in kite boarding, meanwhile the tower, with its rotating voids cut from it, affords a series of ever-better views of the surrounding area as one moves up through the building. The sequence culminates at the top with views to the West of the Lake Huron horizon and back over the bay to the East – toward the kite-boarding theatre! The stairs, and the sectional relationships with the rotating cut-outs create unexpected vistas, and a dynamic space for the client to inhabit, in a flexible, active way.
On the other hand, here are a few of our schemes for the second project:
As you can see from the various iterations, we were very drawn, in all options, to the idea of spreading out the elements of the project across the site, as an ‘assemblage of parts’. A strategy of this sort simultaneously responds to the needs of the multi-generational clients, builds upon the existing way of using the site with its dispersed volumes, and allows for a very dynamic series of relationships between parts of program: cue image of young boy skipping along a boardwalk between the trees to see his grandparents.
Here is the scheme that has emerged as the favourite:
In this scheme, the approach of ‘scattering’ is utilized in a slightly less direct manner. The spaces of the building are still spread out across the site, but they are, with the exception of the guest cabin, incorporated within one extended building envelope. The resulting courtyard is framed by these spaces, creating a welcoming exterior volume that brings a sense of protective enclosure from the adjacent open meadow. The central dining area has large panes of operable glass on each side – one facing out toward the lake, and one facing back towards the courtyard. The dining space becomes the perceptual void that connects the more solid adjacent volumes of the building. The roof draws down to the earth in a couple of places to become walls, giving the impression of a building emerging naturally from the ground evocative of the ubiquitous outcroppings in the area.
More to follow, as we further develop these exciting schemes!!