- Structural Engineering:Blackwell Engineering
- Construction Management:Derek Nicholson Incorporated
- Millwork:BL Woodworking
- Custom Wood Windows And Siding:Fusil
- Drawings And Diagrams:Williamson Chong
- Design Team:Donald Chong, Chris Routley, Shane Williamson, Betsy Williamson
Text description provided by the architects. 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.
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.