Photographer’s Studio Over a Boat House

LOCATION Stoney Lake, Ontario

This project is a reimagination of the archetypal glass house in a landscape. As a continuation of this architectural ambition, the central conceit of the glass house is reconceived through a contemporary lens of sustainability, program, site and amenity. The compelling qualities of simple open spaces, interior and exterior unity, and material clarity are transformed to enhance the environmental and programmatic performance of the building, creating an architecture of both iconic resonance and innovative context-driven design.

The program envisions the building as north-f acing window: a photographer’s live/work studio that is continuously bathed in diffuse and undiminished natural light. The transparent façade–a continuous curtain wall glazed in Cradle to Cradle-certified Starphire glass–becomes the essential element in a photographic apparatus to produce images unobtainable in a conventional studio. The availability and fidelity of north-facing light in the double-height space provides the photographer with unparalleled natural illumination, while the clarity of the glazing transforms the site and surrounding vistas into a sublime, everchanging backdrop.

The compact glass form sits at the water’s edge on a granite plinth whose matte black façade dematerializes to suspend the building, lantern-like, on the site. The granite’s thermal mass exploits the abundant solar input, eliminating the need for active systems on winter days, while the lakefront site allows the use of a deep-water exchange to heat and cool the building year-round through radiant slabs and recessed perimeter louvres at the floor and ceiling. Sliding panes in the glass skin–three metres wide at the ground floor, and 1.5 metres wide on the mezzanine floor–allow the façade to become completely porous for natural ventilation, while an individually automated blind system, white roof, and deciduous hedgerow guard against excessive solar gain. The continuous blind system additionally serves as a second aesthetic skin, transforming the interior into an enclosed intimate space, and the exterior into a gently reflective mirror of the surroundings.

Entry into the site is facilitated through a minimalist landscape that deploys endogenous materials while leaving the greatest portion of the site in its evocative, glacier-scoured state. A simple granite plinth serves as a threshold for the south-facing entrance, where solid program functions and vertical circulation are arranged in a narrow, efficient volume. From the outset, the goal was to accommodate the clients’ program within a small footprint; consequently, domestic functions are integrated into a furniture-like mezzanine assembly suspended above the main space, where bedroom, bathroom and closet are coextensive, and sliding fritted glass allows the whole to be concealed from the rest of the space. Throughout the upper and lower levels, interior partitions are clad with seamless white lacquered panels whose reflective qualities diffuse light into every part of the interior and create complex layered views through the space.

Bernardo Gómez-Pimienta: The conceptual clarity of the reinterpretation of the glass house in an open landscape is pushed to the limits of construction technique. Slab and trusses dissolve to become invisible and hidden behind the mullions. The landscape becomes the background for this exercise in contained energy.

Nader Tehrani: Taking on the classical Canadian weekend boathouse, this project refuses the stone and wood that 99% of its neighbours thrive on. Transforming the modern glass house, the project instead takes the ephemeral qualities of mist, snow and water, and uses a palette of white to underline qualities of the surrounding landscape.

Client Larry Williams and Sharie Kennedy
Architect Team Pat Hanson, Diana Gerrard, Raymond Chow, Simon Routh, Gretar Gudmundsson, Paul Cohoon, Liza Stiff, Vivian Chin, Walter Bettio, Deni Papetti
Structural Blackwell Bowick Partnership Limited
Mechanical Lam and Associates Limited
Lighting and IT Alain Couture
Landscape gh3
Construction Manager Scott Simpson
Area 170 m2
Budget $2.2 M
Completion 2008