Architect in ChargeJohn Shnier, Amin Ibrahim, Stephanie Vermeulen
From the architect. The project is the design of a new home for a young family with two working parents and three children. The new house replaces an existing house on a conventional mid-town residential lot in the City of Toronto. Similar in area to the original house, the new design emphasizes fluid relationships between, and within, shared family spaces—both indoor and outdoor. Accommodating a large art collection, as well as the desire to preserve and engage a large tree in the rear yard are two important requirements.
Designed for a larger than average family, Rosemary House encourages modern family living that is interactive, open to choices, and growth. This is achieved by planning for living, working and playing in spaces that are zoned, yet not necessarily enclosed. Circulation, planned with continuous loops and visual overlook, provides for art display; endless running space for children; and continuous contact between family members.
A unique “pleated” ceiling element creates dynamic movement throughout the volume; this contrasts the simple nature of the spaces in plan. Simultaneously, the ceiling provides acoustic performance and ambient and task lighting for the art collection.
The modest two-storey mass of the house sits unobtrusively within the neighborhood. While it is distinct from its pseudo-Tudor neighbors, it is neither overshadowed nor dominant in that distinction. It is setback slightly further than the original house, to better align with its neighbours. An innovative use of custom solid limestone masonry is tonally sympathetic with other homes, yet demonstrates how contemporary design can contribute difference.
The existing trees on the property have been preserved. The healthy ash tree in the backyard around which the east elevation unfolds, has been carefully pre-treated to facilitate longevity.
The Rosemary House’s efficient design minimizes its impact on the environment during its entire lifespan by using the following measures:
• Simple volume, strategic use of glass, in-floor heating, maximizing soft landscaping on site
• Use of robust materials require minimum life cycle costs
• Materials, finishes and furniture are 0 VOC, sustainable and natural for a healthy living environment
• No plastics or vinyl used
• Old Ash Tree prophylactically treated to preserve against Ash Borer
• Glazing design optimized to provide glass to solid wall ratio providing both ample natural light yet well insulated envelope.
The compact stacked footprint of the house permits the use of robust, high quality materials and products within the budget. As a counterpoint to much larger homes being built in the neighbourhood, this modern home encourages larger living in smaller, useable and flexible space.
The house sits on a relatively conventional site in a well-established neighborhood. The design of the house seeks to find the ‘sweet spot’ between formal innovations that break with conventional boundaries of its neighbours yet respects the essential qualities of its context. The exaggerated horizontal coursing and subtle pleating of the limestone masonry ensures that this house, though smaller than most of its neighbours, is distinct without being abstentious or trendy. It is innovative and assertive, yet modest and familiar. It is a home that will always be understood as both of its time; and a classic.