TABLE OF CONTENTS May 2010 - 0 comments

Craven Road Studio


ARCHITECT Shim-Sutcliffe Architects
LOCATION Toronto, Ontario

The client required a detached, freestanding studio which could serve a variety of uses including exhibition and display, research and study space, archival storage, and library shelving. Located on a tightly defined urban lot, it sits immediately adjacent to an earlier award-winning house constructed 10 years ago for the same client and serves as an adjunct space to the principal residence.

An urban court with a grove of river birches was created between the existing principal building and the new studio. A new single-car garage and three-foot-wide walkway created for the adjacent neighbour forms the south side of the courtyard. The result is an urban ensemble of buildings flanking an outdoor open space that all buildings benefit from. One enters the site through this urban court and from there, enters either the principal residence or the studio building.

The client stipulated that the space be lit with diffuse, indirect natural light in order to provide adequate daylighting, yet avoid potential UV damage to books and collections of archival material. The clear-span space is entirely column-free, and supports a sustainable green roof which is planted with native grasses. The uninterrupted plane of the ceiling floats nearly 12 feet above the floor, and slopes upward at the edge on all four sides to meet the junction of the perimeter skylight. An innovative system of narrow light coffers surrounds the entire perimeter of the studio, varying in both rhythm and depth depending on their orientation. The incoming light washes across the face of the wood fins, providing a warmth and glow in the internal space.

The project's external façade responds explicitly to the principal residence. An exterior cladding of stained marine plywood was installed with the grain running horizontally, relating it to the wood panel walls of the existing house. The upper walls are faced with untreated cedar slats, which will allow them to weather naturally, echoing the same motif used in the adjacent garage and the new cedar fence surrounding the property. Together, they create a layered ensemble of buildings that use exterior wood in different ways.

Finally, on a macro level, the project responds to the often limiting lot conditions of the city of Toronto, which is generally divided into long and narrow Victorian lots. The project's ability to reimagine and recontextualize the allocation of property within the city is subtly transgressive: it offers the possibility of a new urban typology. The project participates in the densification of the urban core while at the same time creating a tranquil and contemplative private space.

Jane Pendergast: This project captured our attention at both the detail level and at the urban scale. The inside perimeter walls are washed with light thanks to a brilliant sectional detail which also sets off the floating ceiling and disguises the fact that the walls are often housing deep storage cabinets. The studio site completely rethinks the realm of the tight inner city block off the lane--creating a sanctuary of inside and outside spaces.

Betsy Williamson: In a modest project like the Craven Road Studio, it can be too easy to give away tectonic rigour to the banalities of typical construction. Here, however, the architects have ensured that every surface and detail becomes a conceptual proposition. The particularly inventive juncture of wall and roof creates coffers that sculpt the changing conditions of light to create a sublime daylighting condition, and tests a proposition that could be applicable to larger-scale work.

Client Robert Hill
Architect Team Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe (principals), Michael Goorevich
Structural Blackwell Bowick Partnership Ltd.
Builder Derek Nicholson Inc.
Area 500 ft2
Budget withheld
Completion 2006


View of the studio interior looking west through a grove of river birch trees.
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The principal house, new studio, and neighbouring garage define an urban court on this compact site.
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North wall of the studio with its book display, bulletin board and wooden light coffers.
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A view of the studio at night.
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Caption: A view of the studio at night.
A view of the studio during the day.
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Caption: A view of the studio during the day.
Site Plan   1  Craven Road House (1993)   2  urban courtyard   3  Craven Road studio   4  neighbour's single-car garage
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