40_R Laneway House / superkül inc

Architects: superkül inc
Location: Toronto, Ontario,
Principals: Andre D’Elia and Meg Graham
Project Architect: Drew Sinclair
Construction Manager: Boszko and Verity Inc
Structural Engineer: Robert E. Brown Associates
Mechanical Engineer: GPY + Associates Engineering Inc
Constructed Area: 75 sqm
Year: 2008
Photographs: Tom Arban Photography / Lorne Bridgman

The conversion of an industrial shed to a single family home in midtown Toronto makes a case for a strategic approach to urban sustainability and revitalization, additional density in the City’s laneways, and smaller footprint living.

Beginning its life as a blacksmith’s shop serving the railway in the early 1880s, the original building at No. 40R remained in industrial service for over 120 years – fi rst as a smithy, then a horse shed, and most recently as a sculptor’s studio. This succession of use was registered in the shed’s quilted skin of rusted panels, insul-brick, barn-board and plywood.

The current owners, interested in smaller footprint living, bought the shed to convert it to a single family home. The strategy was to selectively rebuild it to provide the amenities of ‘home’ – outdoor space, daylighting, and well configured living space – while retaining as much of its existing character as possible.

The conversion was an exercise in the careful calibration of space in zero-tolerance conditions. The 18ft x 40ft lot is reduced at grade to 10ft x 38ft by a right of way; the shed sits on the property line on the two remaining sides. As a result there was no usable outdoor space at grade, and zoning wouldn’t allow for any additional openings in the exterior walls.

The design strategy revolved around drawing additional light, air and views from above. A light shaft topped by skylights runs the length of the west wall and brings light to the ground and second fl oors; operable vents in the sky-light create the stack effect that passively ventilates the house. From the second fl oor courtyard, with its primary view to the sky, there is a stair up to a roof garden and terrace; rainwater from the roof is collected in a cistern below.

The building’s existing rusted steel cladding was removed, brake-formed with a fl at-lock seam, and re-installed as the primary building skin. Flat black-painted knotty cedar and marine grade plywood clads the remainder of the building. Existing structural members were retained where possible, and an existing sliding steel door was salvaged for reuse.

Cite: "40_R Laneway House / superkül inc" 13 May 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=22045>
  • bc

    beautiful …

  • http://www.soulofautumn87.deviantart.com Vladimir Konovalov

    that’s nice.

  • mart

    a really clever solution to the restriction against more windows on the facade. very nice work!

  • George

    i applaud the approach and goals of the project!

  • http://www.tallerveinticuatro.com Ulises

    Small House. A smart Solution.

  • http://www.we-make-money-not-art.com/ Ultra man

    Corten and barcode facade. Back to the 90′s ? that’s really post-minimalism… nothing new, only recycling familiar and safe ideas. Soon clients are going to dismiss architects, and ask graphic designers and builders to create for them…bye bye “architects”

  • Fino

    Pretty nice. The textural quality of the cladding just brings me closer and closer to understand its material depth. Great work.

    that is all.

  • MZ

    It is a really nice box, good organisation of the plan, great spaces for a small project like that, but… I just can not really get friend with the look and texture of corten steel on the fassade of a residential project. It looks undoubtedly unique and has an unmistakeable texture, which I personally find a perverted way pretty and ugly at the same time. It is like the skin of a frog: perfect in its own way, but I just don´t want to touch it. It is just my personal perception, sorry. Otherwise great project, and for the barcode: I don´t think every small family-house has to be the break-through innovation in terms of design: it is contemporary and fits.

  • Katsudon

    This is just awesome! Succeed in bringing light into such a difficult site + giving outdoor spaces.
    Ultraman, so what is new? A twisted shaped 1km high tower glowing in the dark in Dubai?
    Doing a good project isn’t sometimes just answering a function in a given context with elegance? I think it’s what this studio did here.

  • JasonW

    Smart & Nice.
    But nothing new.

  • Greg

    These “nothing new” comments are just absurd…learn how to apprecaite a well executed project, architecture isn’t fashion.

  • Bo Lucky

    Full appreciation of the “Supercool” architects effort would require including as-found pictures of the shed in the presentation set. The building function was designed quite nicely in the given space. However, I am afraid, that a cultural/historic value of the place was butchered and it has been lost forever…

  • INawe

    I must say this is “superkul” ;) I just love it. Sits in the site nicely. Definitely nothing new but still great architecture. Then again… what is new?

    As for your comment Bo Lucky, can’t comment to the historical value of the building since it is not presented so I can assume the old building wasn’t that worth keeping. Its cultural value on the other hand remains to be seen.

  • Bo Lucky

    I fully agree – it’s “superkul”.
    Since a building history, which started in 1880s, is included in the architect project description, assumtion can safely be made that it was (not anymore – I guess) of some (cultural/historic) importance. If the old building was insignificant and wasn’t that worth keeping, why even bother to relate to it?

  • JasonW


    “learn how to apprecaite a well executed project, architecture isn’t fashion.”
    Did I say this was a bad project? or did you miss the “Smart & Nice” part?

    “These “nothing new” comments are just absurd…”
    Say what you want but the bottom line is: This project brings nothing new to architecture!

    Once again:
    Smart & Nice (& well executed).
    But (still) nothing new.

  • http://www.flickr.com/red_gloww Ben lepley

    This project could have easily turned out to be a cluttered mess, but it didn’t, the architects kept it clean, simple, and elegant. I am suspicious of the facade though, It clearly looks that 90% of the rusted panels are new, and the other 10% is reused. I quite love the idea though. Reminds me a bit of some Bow Wow projects. good job guys

  • bc

    it doesn’t have to be something ‘new’, it ‘can’ just be a ‘good’ and clever project

  • INawe

    @Bo Lucky

    I think it was just said because the reincarnations of the building dictated how the facade of the building came about and so it doesn’t seem like and arbitrary decision. i’m pretty sure it also leads to how there must have been some code interpretation and grandfathering in of property lines involved as well.

    all in all, i’d say its a nice story which ends with a well done outcome.

  • JasonW


    No, it doesn’t have to be something ‘new’ to be a good project! and this is a ‘good’ and clever project. I just happen to like seeing people taking risks.. and this is playing it safe!

    And there’s nothing wrong with it… I just don’t get all the hate towards my ‘nothing new’ comment…

  • Greg


    Relax, my initial comment was more directed at “Ultraman” anyways, and his dismissal of architects. I appreciate your appreciation of the project.

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  • http://www.regionalarchitects.com ADS

    i like that the materials are cheap. thin-gage steel is way cheaper than corten and you get that patina. it’s pretty good and original.

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  • Hubbe

    i wonder what the tiny window is for