ARCHITECT NELSON KWONG ARCHITECT
LOCATION TORONTO, ONTARIO
Situated on a narrow corner lot within an established downtown Toronto neighbourhood, the program of this new private residence is distributed over three floors of living space and a detached garage. This stacked program distribution and massing of dwelling, outdoor space, and garage is a function of the narrow proportions of the site and the morphology of its east neighbouring lots. Through a material selection of brick and dark zinc, warmed with accents of wood slat fencing and screens, the house projects a subdued modern sensibility from its corner lot. Dealing with the physical constraints of a long and narrow site, the project aligns itself with neighbouring dwellings at the front elevation and maintains the street setback of the original house to be demolished. With its quiet materiality and deferential urban response, the architecture is consciously introspective, exploring potentialities within the interfaces and interstices of the house as spatial and environmental mediators.
The continuous three-storey stair stretched over the entire length of the building creates a vertical slice through the section of the house. Crowned on one side with operable clerestory glazing, the slice is strategically located to create a luminous, dramatic and simple form of circulation with simultaneous multi-levelled views, while providing passive ventilation and internal daylight.
Maintaining the existing figure-ground of this established neighbourhood, the garage is detached from the house and sited at the rear of the lot. The exterior wood slat screen and concrete deck and bench seen through full-height, wall-to-wall glazing recalls the materiality of the interior living space. The deliberate stretching of the building fabric through the link to the garage unifies the previously disparate building elements, and in the process creates a well defined architectural edge to an intimate outdoor room and an extension of the interior living spaces.
The residence’s cladding, or “wrap,” is a continuous exterior zinc surface enveloping in part, all three levels of the house. Registering itself on all four elevations, the wrap reinforces the continuity and reading of the slice from the exterior while connecting all levels of the house through a single gesture. Starting as the roof of the uppermost floor and clerestory, the wrap folds down the east elevation, stretches out towards the link at the rear where it bends, and returns to the kitchen.
As a counterpart to the wrap, the “weave” is a continuous interior surface which visually suggests spatial continuity from any point within the house as a connective planar element, bending, climbing, dipping and weaving through the interior.
In an effort to minimize the environmental impact of the building footprint and to maximize outdoor space, the roof of the house and garage is flattened, replacing the typical sloped asphalt shingled surface with a flat programmable surface. Within this compact urban site, blanketing the house with a semi-intensive green roof creates a much desired outdoor landscaped room which reduces storm-water runoff, mitigates the urban heat island effect, provides natural air filtration, increases roof insulating values and minimizes net heat gain in the summer through evapotranspiration, thereby decreasing cooling energy use. With the integration of an extensive green garage roof and “thatched” wall, the transition from roof to ground plane provides a green visual connection from all three levels of the house.
Daoust: A very thoughtful house reinterpreting a traditional siting strategy in a contemporary manner. It is a respectful corner treatment formalized by two active street-related faades. A dramatic vertical spine acts both as a plan organizer and as a sustainability device, weaving together high-quality design and environmental preoccupations.
Kearns: This house is replacing an existing house on a corner lot in a quiet residential enclave of central Toronto. The sparse visual clarity of the drawings conveyed a strong sense of the architecture of the house. The architect has resisted temptation and generated a pervasive simplicity in all but some of the text accompanying the submission. The modesty of the house is very seductive: essentially it is just a two-bedroom house on two storeys, yet it engages a greater reality. The positioning of the stair to one side creates a spatially dramatic vertical chasm through the house and produces another quasi-exterior elevation with its own natural light coming from above. The maximum spatial potential has been extracted from the planning of the front doorstep right through to the back wall of the garage. The plan opens up at ground level from the lounge to the private garden and from the living room to the public sideyard and street. It is only here that, regrettably, doors do not open to engage more fully with the exterior environment.
ARCHITECT TEAM NELSON KWONG, LEROY SHUM
GRAPHICS TEAM NEAL PRABHU, LISA SAWATSKY, SON VAN HUYNH
STRUCTURAL BANERJEE AND ASSOCIATES
MECHANICAL GPY & ASSOCIATES ENGINEERING INC.
INTERIORS NELSON KWONG ARCHITECT
AREA 2,405 FT2
COMPLETION FALL 2008