Sky House by the lake

Building a cottage home on the Canadian Shield that would comfortably host a family reunion or just a couple on a weekend retreat posed some challenges for architects Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster.

The Canadian pair have set up shop in Buffalo, N.Y., but cater to clients on both sides of the 49th parallel. Kempster and Jamrozik designed the Sky House home to be virtually energy self-sufficient, but not entirely off the grid in Ontario’s Kawartha lake district, northeast of Peterborough.

“Once the contractor excavated, we modified the design to suit where the bedrock was, so we could avoid blasting,” says Kempster.

The architects were given explicit lifestyle parameters by the site owners. “What made them perfect clients was that they knew functionally exactly what they wanted. They could tell you how many people they had to sleep. They could walk you through a day and tell you what sort of condition they wanted to eat breakfast in,” he says. But even though they knew everything about the lifestyle they wanted, they didn’t have any preconceived ideas about how any of that should look and were open to all sorts of ideas.

Negotiating the steep topography of a lakeside site, the holiday house consists of two volumes stacked on one another. The lower volume nestles into the landscape so that it is barely visible as one first approaches the house. The upper volume rests on the lower one and on a concrete pier to form both a bridge and a cantilever.

The upper volume contains living spaces and opens up towards the lake while the lower volume is more enclosed and houses bedrooms. Responding to the need for accessibility for guests with disabilities, as well as thinking of the clients’ ability to use the building far into the future, a study/bedroom and accessible bathroom are provided on the main level. The roof of the lower bar becomes a terrace allowing elevated views and a direct connection to the living spaces.

High tech home on the Canadian Shield

The factory-inspired skylights are rotated to admit north light without heat gain while orienting the solar panels due south so the house can generate all of its own power. The combination of vertical skylights and a fully glazed south-facing facade result in a daylight interior. A covered walkway shades the main wall of glass from summer sun while admitting lower winter sun to passively heat the dark-dyed concrete floor.

All of the systems of the house are electric, including radiant- heated polished concrete floors, an induction stove, water heater and enough solar panels to provide for that load.

From design to the last nail, the entire project took two years to complete. As far as Jamrozik knows, “they haven’t had any complaints and are enjoying it. They have had a family reunion with lots of people.

“We have heard them say that it does work quite well in a high capacity situation.”

Just the way they wanted it.

The finished Then-and-Now project is featured on each issue’s cover. Please submit project suggestions to news@wimediainc.ca.

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