This single-family home on a rural, lake-side property outside of Port Hope, ON is distinctive in the way that its form and spaces connect to and integrate the natural characteristics of an extraordinary site. Integral to the design is an understanding of the 75-acre property as a sequence of unique conditions – a woodlot, fallow field, an abandoned Grand Trunk railway cut, and a steep embankment which falls away to Lake Ontario – as is the desire to create an architecture that visually and experientially links these layers with the everyday lives of its inhabitants.
The project’s tectonic expression (and structure) is literally rooted in the characteristics of the site. Concrete walls embedded in the earth gradually rise, at their lowest point framing both thermal baths and views to the woodlot, and then lift upward, thrusting the living room, kitchen and master bedroom above the rail cut to capture unrestrained views of the lake.
What begins as a single form, curving and lifting from the earth, then splits into two framed volumes: allowing, through gentle separation of these volumes, clerestory lighting to filter deep within the living areas of the home. A long, sloping deck connects the master bedroom with the thermal bath and field beyond.
The sustainable features incorporated in the house ensure a minimal ecological footprint and nominal reliance on the grid. The form and orientation of the project maximize beneficial solar exposure and a high-performance envelope is achieved with predominantly solid east-west facades and heat-mirror film glazing.
The long concrete walls create thermal mass which works in concert with the ground source heating system to reduce the need for natural gas. A charcoal zinc cladding flows over the concrete, forming a highly efficient building envelope. As the house rises toward the South, the material palette and massing lighten to privilege openness and light.
Emphasizing the house’s organic connection to the land, water and sewage are treated on site, rainwater is collected for irrigation and the majority of land around the house has been re-naturalized, save for vegetable gardens that seasonally supply the clients’ needs.
As an architectural composition, the project offers a unique interpretation of the domestic space – a fundamental object of architectural inquiry – based on the particular experiences and opportunities of a site. Expressed as a small handful of sculptural but restrained moves, the project breaks the mold of contemporary home design in imagining the house as a natural form, an organic but certainly not pre-ordained result of creative exchange between architect, client and environment.