S.W.A.M.P. House

Architect Velikov + Thun Building Studio

Location Sauble Beach, Ontario

Research into the realms of prefabricated building systems and sustainable technologies is deployed in response to S.W.A.M.P. House (Sustainable Weekend and Multi-Program House), an off-grid weekend retreat situated on the Lake Huron shore. Integrated modular systems are configured to respond to the particularities of site, minimize impacts to the surrounding landscape, and provide a set of flexible program spaces capable of accommodating a range of occupations.

The project consists of two primary volumes: pavilion and tower. The low-slung horizontal pavilion hovers on pilotis permitting the soils of the coastal woodland to continue filtering surface water as it moves towards the lake. Glazing along its south face provides passive heating and daylighting, and frames a long foreground view across the clearing and into the body of the woodlot. The tower facilitates passive cooling and houses the project’s services at grade, consolidated beneath a stair that enables access to an upper loft elevated above the surrounding vegetation. The loft offers a distant view to the horizon and the lake.

An image of airborne milkweed pods has resonated as a leitmotif for both the manner in which the architecture would touch upon the land, and its material realization as a luminous pavilion from which to view the surrounding environment. A suite of “transparent technologies” such as laminated film photovoltaics, ultra-compact mechanical systems, and a high-performance envelope liberate the aesthetic potential of responsive environmental design from its traditional confines and minimize the space required for these systems.

The bulk of collective activities are accommodated within the pavilion. The north wall is a flexible architectural element capable of supporting different programs, and is comprised of a continuous arrangement of built-in millwork housing kitchen functions, storage, and four “sleeping” modules. These modules fold down to form an informal terrain for lounging, or alternatively, a suite of private sleeping spaces enclosed by gossamer curtains. With the walls compactly folded back into their closed upright position, the resulting large open space creates a generous screened interior as an alternative to an outdoor deck in this wetland environment.

Ouellette: Drawing upon their investigations into prefabricated building techniques and sustainable technologies, Velikov and Thn’s response reimagines the Ontario cottage form. Removed from the lakefront on a typical subdivision-like land parcel, the designers used their talents to enhance the existing woodlot while also offering views to the lake from an elevated lookout on the second storey. The rational plan allows for multiple uses allowing the cottage to change as the occupants’ needs change.

Provencher: This project is an ingenious and architecturally sensitive scheme covering a wide spectrum of ideas, from prefabricated construction systems to completely sustainable design. It is an intelligent approach to the site which minimizes the disturbance to nature. This small pavilion is open, flexible and delightful…what more can we ask?

Taylor: To me, this project is actually a blend of two iconic building types–firstly, a garden “folly” of the single tower room, and secondly, a pavilion in the landscape, akin to Philip Johnson’s glass house. It achieves this in a delightfully whimsical way, with a clear approach to modular construction and the creation of flexible space.

Client Alexandra Velikov

Architect Team Geoffrey Thun, Kathy Velikov

Structural Ojdrovic Engineering Inc.

Building Systems Integration Dr. Ted Kesik, P.Eng

Area 2,000 Ft2

Budget $390,000

Completion 2006/2007