Sharp angled new build in Toronto

The sharp angles and simple form of this Toronto home are the perfect answer to its concealed backland plot.

By Emily Brooks | 15 September 2017

The sharp angles and simple form of this Toronto home are the perfect answer to its concealed backland plot.

The design of this three-bedroom house in Toronto is all about wringing maximum drama from a few clever contrasts. First, there are the clean, crisp angles of the building itself, with its sharply pitched roof contrasting with rough-edged cladding. Then there’s the dramatic colour difference between these dark grey shakes – which cover both roof and walls – and the eye-catching front porch, an indented corner section painted in hot pink.;

The work of architectural design firm Reigo & Bauer, the house is an unexpected find in a part of the city filled with blocks of semi-detached period homes. When owners Daniel and Lana Fillion came to Stephen and Merike Bauer, the husband-and-wife couple who run the practice, they had just such a period home and were looking to renovate it. ‘Very unusually, their house was on an L-shaped piece of land, where one leg of the L kicked back behind the other properties,’ says Merike Bauer. ‘For a lot of reasons, the renovation was proving complicated, so we proposed the idea of severing the back lot, selling the existing house andbuilding something new.’;

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While their clients were all for this new challenge, there were a few planning issues to overcome first. ‘In Toronto there is a policy against house-behind-house development, but in this case the City was in favour of the plans, even though it went against the guidelines,’ says Bauer. ‘It meant that we needed a few extra approvals.’ Some of the neighbours also voiced opposition, but the finished house is sensitively placed so as not to block views or light – it even dips down deferentially to its lowest height next to the neighbours who were most vocal in their disapproval.

Achieving planning permission for this backland site opened up the design possibilities for the architecture: since it can’t be seen from the road, it didn’t have to conform to the style of the surrounding dwellings.

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‘It set up an interesting scenario as there was no street, so there wasn’t a standard design language to abide by,’ says Bauer. Instead, the plot was flanked by sheds, garages and outbuildings, some covered in corrugated metal on both roof and walls.

It was these modest structures that helped inform the final scheme. The designers decided to clad both the roof and walls in Enviroshake, a product more typically used solely for roofing. Developed to be a non-combustible alternative to cedar shakes, it is made with a composite material that’s 95 per cent recycled (and is itself recyclable). The impression that the all-over cladding gives is one of monolithic solidity – but this is softened by the rustic feel of the material itself.