Ja Architecture Studio
WINNER OF A 2020 CANADIAN ARCHITECT AWARD OF EXCELLENCE
“This is a little jewel in the middle of the city. The designers could have just added to the existing house, but they created a separate object with a versatile space between. I like the tension from the street façade, which respects the smaller scale of the added component. The sculptural shape is complemented by a very interesting tectonic approach that does something different with brick. Sometimes it’s difficult to realize details like that brick roof, but these designers seem to have the sensibilities to achieve it.” – Stephan Chevalier, juror
Start with an irregular site. Add architects who are keen on exploring how the brick, a common masonry unit, can be manipulated to achieve uncommon results. The result? In the case of this 51-square-metre addition to an 86-square-metre, two-storey semi-detached house, it’s a flexible yet customized stack of spaces for better living.
One of the owners is a consultant; the other, an architect-turned-baker. The birth of their first child provided an impetus to enlarge their home, which occupies a wedge-shaped lot abutting the rear yards of several other houses.
Clad entirely in brick, the curved walls of the addition merge with its brick roof, creating a seamless, richly textured volume. The cantilevering of the front wall creates a levitating effect that counteracts the weightiness of all that brick. A passage between the addition and the existing house leads down a few stairs and back up a few more to the rear yard.
While the addition’s outward form is highly controlled, the flexible spaces within this vessel are designed to adapt to the family’s changing needs over time. The sunken ground floor, conceived as a commercial test kitchen, can be accessed from the passage to the rear yard. The cantilever along the front façade is functional: it creates the soffit plenum that provides space for mechanical kitchen venting and other services. A double-height, operable window allows the kitchen to open onto the rear garden and connects it with the second-level living space above, which accommodates a large table for entertaining. The multipurpose third level is a winter garden/library/home office/oasis—with a tub and a reading corner, and small, recessed roof balcony providing south-facing glazing. A staircase connecting all levels allows natural light to spill down through the rooftop’s light scoop.
At the front and back of the third level, brick screens, paired with operable windows for cross-ventilation, provide glimpses of the world outside. In these screens the repetition of four bond patterns creates the effect of irregularly scattered openings: a detail that neatly encapsulates how the design team’s questing exploration of seemingly random possibilities is in no way arbitrary.
CLIENT Withheld | ARCHITECT TEAM Nima Javidi, Behnaz Assadi, Kyle O’Brien, Rosa Newman, Kaveh Taherizadeh | STRUCTURAL Sepco | LANDSCAPE Behnaz Assadi (Ja Studio) | PLANNING Sean Galbraith & Associates | MEP SustainGlobe | AREA 75 m2 (new addition) | BUDGET Withheld | CURRENT STAGE Design development | ANTICIPATED COMPLETION 2022