Echo House / Kariouk Associates

© Photolux Studios

Architects: Kariouk Associates
Location: Ottawa, Ontario,
Principal In Charge: Paul duBellet Kariouk
Project Team: Chris Davis, Susan Gardiner, Cedric Boulet, Josee Labelle, Matthew Lahey, Todd Duckworth
General Contractor: G.M. French Construction
Structural Engineer: Leibe Engineering
Lighting: Gabriel-Mackinnon
Project Year: 2007–2009
Photographs: Photolux Studios


To marry eighty-four years of history by integrating a contemporary, open and functional living space inside a 1924 landmark that overlooks the Rideau Canal.

existing house

Project Challenge

The starting point for this renovation was a modest Victorian home in poor condition, whose rooms with small windows and dark interior spaces were separated from one another, as was typical of homes built in an era when privacy was a cultural priority. In another gesture to Victorian public decorum, the arrangement of the existing interior spaces reinforced the antiquated ideal that work life and family life should be kept distinct.

© Photolux Studios

Although the client required the renovated space to welcome work life in the home while continuing to maintain clear separations from their family life, it was also important to create a modern, bright space that, albeit small in size, would still appear spacious and visually connected.

Project Response

Echo: noun; “A sympathetic or identical response, as to sentiments expressed; a lingering trace or effect”

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That the house had scarcely been changed since it was originally constructed was both a virtue and a challenge that enabled design opportunities. The footprint of the house is small (approximately seven-hundred square feet).  It was therefore not possible to create a loft-like setting on the ground floor that seemed simultaneously open and provided the required distinct work/living spaces. The house was re-envisaged as a vertical loft – an open, four-storey volume reaching from the basement to the ceiling of the new roof. The new main level and former basement level are opened to each other by a wide stair that highlights views to the home’s original stone foundation walls. Hence, the former Victorian main living level, once segregated into four separate rooms, is now made open and spacious. The small, original windows are replaced with large windows both at the front and rear of the new parlour, visually extending that space into the front yard and the back yard, and, finally, enabling views from the back yard (all the way through the house) to views of the Rideau Canal.

© Photolux Studios

The remaining spatial requirements included very private spaces: a study that could accommodate several thousand books, a den, and a master-bedroom suite. In order to achieve the seemingly paradoxical request for a loft-like home but with spaces as private as the former Victorian ones, the study, den, and “book vault” are designed as distinct volumes suspended inside the larger, four-storey volume.  Because these volumes “float” high up within the now-emptied shell of the original house, they achieve the required visual privacy from the parlour below and the street outside (despite the expanded areas of windows). Though these spaces are small, they are bright and airy and seem large since they all have visual access to both windows and other interior spaces of the home.

© Photolux Studios

The very most private areas of the redesigned house (such as closets, toilets, and stairs) are arranged along the south wall of the house and are shielded by a three-storey hickory “modesty screen.” At the top level, the master-bedroom suite cantilevers over the front facade and yard and also appears as a distinct, floating volume, and forms a canopy over the entry. In this way, the former attic space of the Victorian house is redesigned to provide for light and views where none existed before in the original home, and due to its elevated position, it does so while maintaining privacy. At the initial request of the clients, this renovation allows the values of a bygone era to be given voice in the current era.

Cite: "Echo House / Kariouk Associates" 10 Feb 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
  • Good heavy snow day

    All the smell you cook in the kitchen will go up to the balconies. People in this house will not be cooking most of the time, I guess. Otherwise, that is just a bad planning. (See 16th and 6th photos.)

    • p.

      if the house has good mechanical ventilation system, i see no problem. otherwise you do have a point. cheerz.

      • bst

        the cooktop has a vent fan that pops up behind it. works as good as any simple fans you find that mount over the top just looks cleaner. besides, I like smelling food cooking!

    • Rob

      You say that like it was a bad thing.


    Is anyone else confused about how the stair gets to the top floor? The plan shows a stair against the left wall but if you look at the exterior perspective, how is that possible?

    • ChrisV

      The front of the house faces north on the plans, so the stairs are on the right side in the exterior perspectives.

    • NCArch

      Picture 22 shows the stair plan to the 3rd level pretty well.

  • Carloncho

    I would like to know how they made the fundations of the new estructure


    AMAZING HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE IT!!!!!!

  • james

    i like the dog in image 1…

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  • Nicholas Patten

    I'd Live Here: Echo House.

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  • Salome

    brilliant observation… wonder what he thinks of the house!

  • Dan

    Maybe its just me, but I find the thickness of the brown trim and mullions on the exterior of the top white floating master-suite to be a bit thick, clunky, or distracting. I would have preferred neat, fine, minimalist joints akin to those found on the interior floating forms. Thats my only criticism…

    • bLogHouse

      No, it’s not only you. The exterior totally lacks the finesse of the interior, as if these are two different houses. The master suite is not “floating”, it’s sitting pretty heavily on top of another clunky box. What’s left from the “1924 LANDMARK”(which was not bad, BTW), it is not recognizable enough to make a valid statement about “the values of a bygone era to be given voice in the current era.”

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  • that’s what she

    looks so wrong….

  • James

    While I think the look of the finished product is dramatic, I wonder why the effort was made to save any of the existing house. The finished product is so different that the “echo” is apparent only when explained with words. There is no “lingering trace or effect.” It would have been cheaper to demolish the old house and build a new house from the ground up. There would be less need for the compromises that inevitably come up when renovating.

  • bLogHouse

    According to the plans a shower and a closet protrude into the terrace on the master suite level. They can be seen in the interior photos, but not in photo #2. My guess is photo #2 is ‘cleaned’ up in Photoshop.

  • gogomartiadou

    Very insired!!!!!

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