House At 4A Wychwood Park

ARCHITECT IAN MACDONALD ARCHITECT INC.

LOCATION TORONTO, ONTARIO

This project is located in the heritage conservation district of Wychwood Park in Toronto, of which the defining characteristic is the landscape, the most intact Carolinian Forest remnant in the region. Registration of property lines is generally discouraged in this place; as a result, the buildings sit enigmatically within the mature, apparently continuous forest landscape.

The original buildings and houses, many designed by renowned and inventive architect Eden Smith, derive from the English Cottage Arts and Crafts Style and date back to the beginning of the 20th century. 4a Wychwood makes careful connections to its historic surroundings, and through strategic siting and a modern idiom of expression, extends the essential tradition of engagement between residential architecture and landscape established in the original conception.

Heritage restrictions dictated that the new dwelling should exist within the volume of the derelict 1950s spec builder’s bungalow as found. An inventive strategy was required to accommodate the program of a four-person family dwelling within the 1,100-square-foot envelope of the existing building, and to create private outdoor spaces on the awkward triangular site while dis-tancing them from public overview. Moreover, the goal was to transform one’s read of the spec building into a site-specific modern project interpreted out of the Arts and Craft movement.

The project presents a creative solution, respecting the Arts and Crafts character of the neighbourhood within a modernist idiom. While the “universal” type of the bungalow is retained, it is made particular for its site and function through the manipulation of boundary-defining elements and spatial reorganization. From the outside, the house virtually disappears into a new landscape of dry-laid stone walls and dense planting. Building envelope and footprint restrictions result in a design of considerable sectional ingenuity, and a strategy that involved creating a site within the site to maintain privacy. The interior is an exercise in controlling view and site: principal spaces of the house and their respective landscape prospects are developed strategically to create an intimate relationship to the site while ensuring privacy.

The living/dining room extends spatially to the low concrete garage wall, which terminates the foreground view and includes an exterior court. A language of slipping planes and flush thresholds diminishes the boundary between inside and out, and makes the modestly sized space appear generous. Through sectional strategy, the middleground landscape is edited out of view, eliminating privacy conflicts; the distant-ground view of the ravine and forest expand the illusion that the house is sited directly in relation to nature, rather than in midtown Toronto.

The double-height kitchen/hall space provides an experiential armature for the house, and opens to a shallow landscape of the sideyard, fully one floor below grade. The composition of the glazed screen, which includes translucent and clear panels addressing the redefined grade of the light well, gives a sense of considerable distance between the house and its neighbour, focusing on the space of the outdoor court and allowing distant glimpses to the sky and landscape beyond.

The family room offers a complement to the open character of the living/dining room, where its focus shifts from outward to inward around a hearth and inglenook. The view is to the distant ravine and forest beyond, and the middle ground (which accommodates the public road), is edited out for privacy and to enhance the scale of the landscape prospect.

The house aims for a paradoxical condition of “cozy open spaces,” an attempt to resolve one of the more persistent penchants of modernist architecture to leave its occupants feeling overexposed due to excessive transparency. The house explores enduring domestic themes–the hearth, the garden, the relationship of public to private space–with considerable material and spatial inventiveness.

Pina Petricone: This house gives the split-level bungalow type a whole new meaning. The strategy seems to erode and intertwine the domestic structure of street frontage, backyard and neighbouring setbacks within the modest volume of a vintage bungalow, where spaces are brilliantly mined from the site rather than added to the structure. The result is a sequence of compact indoor and outdoor “rooms” that unexpectedly unravel into exquisite grand moments of expansion.CA

CLIENT DIANE MACDIARMID

ARCHITECT TEAM IAN MACDONALD, OLGA PUSHKAR, SCOTT SORLI, TIM WICKENS, MICHAEL ATTARD

STRUCTURAL BLACKWELL BOWICK ENGINEERING

MECHANICAL TOEWS SYSTEM DESIGN

MILLWORK KOBI’S CABINETS

CONTRACTOR CENED CONSTRUCTION

AREA 2,600 + 1,500 STUDIO

COMPLETION 2002

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