Canadian Architect



April 22, 2009
by Canadian Architect

Along with the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre (JCCC), the Toronto Society of Architects is supporting the exhibition EXTENSIONS, which examines the role of a single-family home as a vehicle to examine the relationships between a family, the physical construction of a home and the pastoral landscape of Ontario. The exhibition is composed of a 1:1 installation at the JCCC that will become part of the home this summer, and incluces notebooks, models and prototypes at the Japan Foundation. There is also a panel discussion and artist’s talk planned at the Japan Foundation. Additionally, an organized tour of the building will be conducted.


Forming the subject of the EXTENSIONS exhibition, the Knoxville House in Port Hope, Ontario, is designed by Toronto intern architect Haji Nakamura. The exhibition takes place from May 15 to June 26, 2009 at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre located at 6 Garamond Court in Toronto.


EXTENSIONS is a story of discovery, an exposition of how architecture serves as a vehicle to explore three stories.


Building the house is about a family

Possibly the most risky challenge undertaken by the parents since leaving Japan for North America, building a house in the woods with their sons is an ambition towards an utopian idea of Canadian living. Undaunted by the challenge of filling the shoes of all trades and labor, the Nakamuras constructed what they affectionately call a 1:1 model of their house. With no other family outside of Japan, this tight-knit family of five has created a new locus both in spirit and geography, coming together again after the inevitable trajectory away from the childhood home.


The house is about building

The design aims to be lean with utility and economy in mind, its details and materials are greatly contextual and have resonance with the agricultural structures in the countryside surrounding it. Meager material choices have in turn pushed technique; for example, continuous wood mullions up to 21 feet long were designed and fabricated as components to a new wood curtain-wall system developed to simplify the assembly for the double height glulam window wall. Careful consideration of every component, every saw cut, every fastener has given rise to a deeper architecture.


The architecture is about (leaving) the city

The Knoxville House is possible by its connection by car to the city, and the extension, physically, of the road that leads from Toronto to its front door. The house is an extension away from the city and leads one deeper into nature, but despite its opposition to the city, finds itself tied umbilically through this orientation from the city. The building is organizationally divided by this extension from the city. The building is organized as a divider of the site. The building veils itself in layers of thresholds, circumscribing its territories by co-opting views, compressing some into captured pictures, while abstracting others, defining front yards, back yards and court yards through lines of trees in foregrounds and backgrounds. Each principal space treats its relationship to the landscape distinctly, combining its spatial characteristics with the nuances of each orientation. It is shielded by the lush green of the forest in the summer, and deeply penetrated by sunlight in the winter.


The exhibition is about the experience

From the beginning, the curators and artists decided that they wanted people to experience the spaces of the house directly, and that the show would include an organized tour of the building. Accordingly, the installation work was decidedly non-representational – since the building itself was part of the show – and is instead an interpretive intervention meant to evoke the experience of building and living in the house. To complete the circularity of relationships, the installation has been assembled from the cedar decking destined for the house.


Haji Nakamura is an intern architect member of the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA). He is known by his clients and the studio for his critical insight and strategic planning skills, and his passion for design. His project expertise ranges from renovation to new construction, at both the small and the large scales. With Bruce Mau Studio, Nakamura worked on the curation and design of the Panama Museum of Biodiversity in collaboration with Frank O. Gehry Associates, and signage development for the Museum of Modern Art, and the Seattle Public Library with OMA. At architectsAlliance, Nakamura has worked on a residential tower in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, an award-winning design for a commercial building lo
cated in the Distillery District in Toronto, and is a key member of the project team for the new boulevard design of Bloor Street at Yorkville in Toronto.


Nakamura received his professional Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Toronto in 2002, and has been a visiting critic at the Waterloo School of Architecture during the 2008-9 academic year.


For more information, please contact Haji Nakamura at or at 416.262.9783.

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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