Weathering Steel House

Toronto, Ontario
Shim-Sutcliffe Architects

In the Toronto garden suburb of Don Mills, 1960s ranch bungalows are being replaced by historically referential and massively clumsy “monster” houses of beige brick, taupe stucco and reconstituted stone, the new ideal suburban dream home. Complemented by decorative and ornamental landscaping they are the antithesis of their modernist predecessors.

This private residence by Shim-Sutcliffe sits in direct contrast with its materially rich, dark, and abstract composition of oxide red weathering steel. The L-shaped house frames a reconfigured landscape created around shaped, tree-covered mounds and a sweeping meadow. Embedding itself into the centre of the house, the linear linked reflecting pool and swimming pool form an intermediary zone between building and landscape, weaving reflected light, motion and sound into the heart of the project.

The front of the residence conveys a striking opaque quality relative to the adjacent houses on the street, but glazed sculptural voids in the elevation permit views right through the building, offering transparent glimpses of the ravine beyond, dramatically opening up to views of downtown Toronto. A circulation space parallel to the front elevation connects garage entry, front entry, basement courtyard and second floor in one continuous slice of vertical and horizontal space. From the main level, the landscape and house unfold, with the linear watercourse weaving internal and external space together.

A skylight and inverted bay window drops a pool of light on the landing of the stair to the second floor, terminating the end of the reflecting pool axis. At the second floor, this inverted bay window and large window on the south side of the house help to form a bridge-like condition linking the master bedroom and the children’s wing.

Andresen: The architectural quality of this suburban house owes much to the making of micro-landscapes on site to engage both with the larger setting and the interior spaces. The weathering steel cladding further acts to register the site and climate conditions of the place. The ladder of relations between furniture, room, garden and larger setting contributes to the memorability of this house.

Client: Withheld

Architect Team: Brigitte Shim, Howard Sutcliffe

Structural: Blackwell Engineering

Mechanical: Ted Kesik

Area: 4,500 sq. ft.

Budget: Withheld

Completion: 2001