Shaft House / rzlbd

© borXu Design

Architects: rzlbd
Location: Toronto, Canada
Design Team: Reza Aliabadi & Ali Malekzadeh
Project Manager: Ali Malekzadeh
Project Area: 1,400 sq ft
Project Year: 2010
Photographs: borXu Design

diagram 01
© borXu Design

The Shaft House is an unexpected and exciting spatial experience that survives the limits of our ordinary living spaces. The two and a half storey detached house reevaluates functional arrangements within a narrow building while creating bright and airy spaces. Affordability is a value that the building successfully owns by integrating well thought low-cost strategies in the design process; from purchasing a modest lot of about 20 feet wide to choosing sustainable and cost efficient materials. Aluminum siding, untreated wood and recyclable rusted for the exterior of the house not only help reduce the costs of the design but t also tried to make a statement on organic behaviors of buildings by changing color while aging along with the house.

© borXu Design

The Shaft House generates spaces without walls. Circulation and services surround a void of light that is called “The Shaft”. Floors on either side overlook each other allowing light and sight to travel deep inside the house. The staircase circulates around the central shaft and cause rooms to emerge in space by changing levels. The levels have been shifted in section resulting in a canopy facing the street, and a south facing deck on the rooftop.

© borXu Design

While the construction cost of the shaft house is almost as affordable as a ready-made design set of standard housings in Toronto, it is yet a surprise for the neighborhood and perhaps for many other neighborhoods in the city. But atelier ’s aspiration towards changing the face of Toronto by creating innovative and affordable designs is a goal that Shaft House successfully represents.

Cite: "Shaft House / rzlbd" 01 Jul 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • design.language

    I like the design of the street-side facade, but it seems to be set back too far from the street. Based on the images provided, it seems as though it would fit better within context if it was in line the adjacent facades.

    • alechs

      I wouldn’t be worried about context with a driveway that long – think about all the snow you’d have to shovel. I’d hate to be the kid living in that house.

    • Bee

      The adjacent houses closer to the boundary are shorter and are fronted by a single-storey portion. This project appears to be the tallest in the street, and is without a single-storey frontage; the architects were most likely shackled to a town planning setback.

  • GeoffBarnes

    Agreed. The house is way to far back – what a shame.

  • David Ferguson

    Very interesting, like to see photos of the back.

  • Cam Yates

    Great however they stole my nickname.

  • up_today_arch

    Very nice for so small plot… The elevation is amazing…

  • Xavier

    There is very few information to analyze this work thoroughly. The section does not have a scale and it does not indicate anything about the usage of the spaces, the distribution of the program, not even the boundaries of the lot.

    From what is shown, it is not even possible to judge if setting the house all the way back was an accurate call. It is difficult to tell if placing a void of light and displacing both halves of the house half a floor is a good decision, for that matter.

    It seems the authors want to be recognized for managing a reduced budget, illuminate all interior spaces with natural light, and creating an appealing elevation from the street.

  • Rube

    Aside from the set back, another nod to the local context would have been to pick up on the white fascia boards defining their respective forms.

  • SF

    As a stand alone, the front facade looks pleasing.
    However, it is a shame that there is no apparent response to the neighbouring building. Somehow a response to those barn style pitched roofs and frontage could have brought about some interesting design/modern features.

    Shame we still think modern means box. :(

  • JP

    There are different ways to respond to context than mere issues of style. It appears to me, that due to the small, narrow site they couldn’t fit the wanted/req’d square footage with a hipped roof. A square roof means more usable space. Probably the same reason there are so many floors, and so much attention given to the ‘shaft.’

    Shame we still think ‘context’ means ‘mere style.’

    • sf

      they could have matched the house on the left with the pitch height. playing with the notion of the building on the right, they could have taken that language and modernised it. Instead of a point it could be flat, with a recessed light well in the roof. Modern insulation means the pitch space could be utilised instead of the flat ceiling. Also, its ac ountry of snow… ptiched roofs serve a purpose. they prevent natural swimming pools and excess loads on roofs. style… part of parcel.

      • alechs

        If anyone is still interested:

        the back and roof of the house looks strange. You can use the address to find a bird’s eye aerial of lot before construction on Bing.

        I agree with SF – roofs should not be flat… we need to put that modern cliche in the moratorium asap.