Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Task: To design a “forever” home on a narrow lot for a young family
The requirements for this project called for the design of a small home that would respond to the evolving life needs of a young couple, with two small boys, who intend to live their lives here for the next half century. A significant spatial challenge from the start of the project was that the maximum allowable width of the house could only be twenty-four feet, hence the house would necessarily need to be long; because windows on the long sides of the home were greatly restricted by zoning regulations, there was an immediate design challenge to bring light into the long interior volume that otherwise would be dark.
The home is set as far back as possible within a contoured landscape, effectively turning the “basement” into a “lower level” that opens fully to the light and views of the large front garden. Here, and as well above on the main floor, the front wall comprises a floor-to-ceiling glass accordion-door system that can open 100% to the landscape. On the main floor, the roof overhang is calibrated to block the higher-angled summer sun, while the lower-angled winter sun penetrates the home. The Insulated Concrete Form walls (ICF) and the poured concrete, radiant heated floors capture and hold the warmth of the winter sun, gradually releasing the heat throughout the home in the evening. The sloped roof continues through the interior and reaches fourteen-feet to catch light and to create a “chimney effect” that accelerates breezes down the length of the house, eliminating the need for air conditioning. Light is brought into the center of the home through an ensuite whose volume hovers in a large opening in the floor plate; the bathroom is fitted with expansive skylights and clerestory, allowing daylight to spill through that opening, illuminating both levels.
Behind the high-efficiency wood stove hang four bronze plaques engraved with a quote that was provided by the client at the outset of the project as a direction for the spirit of the design:
“It is proper to every gathering that the gatherers assemble to coordinate their efforts to the sheltering; only when they have gathered together with that end in view do they begin to gather.”
Martin Heidegger, Logos