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  5. Williamson Chong Architects
  6. 2016
  7. Bala Line House / Williamson Chong Architects

Bala Line House / Williamson Chong Architects

  • 11:00 - 9 March, 2016
Bala Line House / Williamson Chong Architects
Bala Line House  / Williamson Chong Architects, © Bob Gundu
© Bob Gundu

© Bob Gundu © Bob Gundu © Bob Gundu © Bob Gundu +12

  • Structural Engineering

    Blackwell Engineering
  • Construction Management

    Derek Nicholson Incorporated
  • Millwork

    BL Woodworking
  • Custom Wood Windows and Siding

  • Drawings and Diagrams

    Williamson Chong
  • More SpecsLess Specs
© Bob Gundu
© Bob Gundu

From the architect. Within Toronto’s network of well-preserved ravines and valleys, historic rail lines are occasionally found nestled unused on steep, wooded slopes between the upper plateau of residential fabric and the river valley habitats down below. A de-commissioned rail spur – once used for an industry-focused early 20th-century city – has evolved into a common passage for hikers and neighbours as it connects the local ravine pathway system to newly developed community areas such as the weekly farmers market at the revitalized Don Valley Brickworks. Upslope, a rare accessible lot lining the western edge of the ravine, some 60 feet above the Bala Line rail path, is the site for a single-family dwelling that engages this alternative connection to the city infrastructure.  

© Bob Gundu
© Bob Gundu

This home for a family of five integrates a series of terraced spaces strung together by a 14’ flight-and-a-half stair, coinciding with the cascading topography beyond. Using a single-run stair to offset primary spaces at key landing points, the project frames views of the valley below. Ostensible ‘pressures’ of limiting-distance minimum unprotected openings, neighbouring heights, and physical grade preservation (for stable soil structure and integrity), together offered an opportunity for a monolithic stepped mass nesting atop a grounded poured-in-place concrete structure. 


The project erodes toward the ravine, leaving a light-filled series of upper spaces capturing any natural light and thermally-moderating effects of fresh valley air – most notably in the form of a carved front facade and a generous double-cantilever open corner at opposite ends. As a prototypical gesture to an otherwise neglected urban condition in Toronto, this house architecturally seeks to reclaim the ravine as a worthy, new public realm.

© Bob Gundu
© Bob Gundu
Cite: "Bala Line House / Williamson Chong Architects" 09 Mar 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
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shame on the architects! · March 09, 2016

The architects have delivered a house with no living/recreational/storage spaces to a family of five! In exchange for their useable spaces, the owners have been 'gifted' with expensive architectural concrete, cantilevered sliding windows and high maintenance cladding and decks. I hope the owners love their house and never intend to leave, because it will be difficult for them to sell a house entirely lacking in the usual amenities.

Steven Lazen · March 10, 2016 02:29 AM

Seems to have a living room/ rec space directly connected to the back yard via the big sliding doors. Also, judging by the photos of the living room and the plans, there is a basement - perhaps for additional storage and rec space. Not sure what the issue is you have with the architectural concrete. Seems like a good way to heat the space, especially in Toronto. Everything else seems quite standard - generous kitchen, two bedrooms, master suite; you know, the usual amenities. Even the 'high-maintenance' cladding and decks - looks like stucco, cedar and concrete, not particularly tough to maintain. Am I missing something or are you?


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