Set atop a hilly site in an established North Toronto neighborhood and surrounded by traditional homes, the project is the result of a mixed brief from a professional couple keen on building a family home. While one partner is drawn to contemporary design, the other prefers traditional. This dichotomy surfaces throughout the design and construction process, providing numerous challenges and opportunities for creative solutions. This same tension is often visible in the market place, especially within the ubiquitous developer home, where modern living, open-concept interiors, and traditional architectural expression are at odds with each other. The Courtyard House sets forth a viable alternative to the standard developer home. It draws from standard construction methods, material palettes and vernacular domestic elements to create a contemporary architectural expression that is architecturally coherent.
The steep front grade of the property proved a challenge in siting the house. In an effort to maintain the height of the building relative to its neighbors, the second floor is merged into the roof form to create a dormer expression. On the interior, bedroom spaces feature sloped and carved ceilings that embrace the exterior form. Sinking the main level of the house into the ground allows for the main entry to be integrated into the landscape, and the opportunity to build a beautiful front stair out of large, contemporary stone slabs. Large operable windows and sliding doors encourage natural ventilation, passive cooling and lessen the cooling load of the overall house, while providing ample natural light. The open plan allows the family to spread out, while custom millwork pieces create distinct spaces within the whole. The large windows and courtyard configuration allow the house to be experienced from many different angles, both inside and out.
Set amongst large, traditional homes in an established neighborhood, the Courtyard House creatively integrates and composes traditional materials such as tumbled brick, cedar shingles, and sapele wood siding into a formal language that is reflective of its open and contemporary interiors while respecting the visual cadence (roof lines, address, driveway, etc.) of the neighborhood. The architectural expression of the Courtyard House sets forth a viable alternative to the standard developer home. It draws from standard wood-frame construction methods, traditional material palettes and vernacular forms to create a contemporary architectural expression that is coherent.
Unlike its neighboring buildings, also situated on large plots, the shallow floor plate of the house takes advantage of the wide lot. The traditional components and layout of the house are redistributed and reoriented around a central courtyard which capitalizes on the unique lot. Therefore, a hybrid approach is suggested – instead of a strong modern aesthetic (flat roof, white walls, etc.), one that embraces traditional materials and construction with the demands of modern living is suggested. Instead of alienating its neighbors, the house respects and engages them.