Set out to create a “modest” house in an area where most take an exuberant design approach to private residences, Bing Thom applied his design philosophy to ensure the building relates to and is harmonious with its landscape. Like with most BTA house commissions, the design of the garden took place first, and for this particular house, a Suzhou inspired garden manifested. Consistent with Suzhou gardens, water was brought into the long and narrow rectangular site in the form of a pond to enhance the sensation of a natural and serene setting. Circulating through the ground floor, one is always aware of the outside. Each room is designed essentially to have its own focussed view of a different part of the garden, while consistently supporting the perception of the house hovering over water. With the generous amount of windows in this house, one is constantly aware of the exterior on both the main and second floors. On the latter, an intermediate layer of the sliding wood skin mediates the experience. In the centre of the house, there is a system of glass stairs and bridges on showcase, and in conjunction with the light well natural light is drawn in to illuminate the house by day, and from the street at night the house glows warmly.
The owner’s Chinese heritage influenced the goal to achieve an overall design that would be Asian in “feeling” yet contemporary in “expression.” As a result, elements of traditional Chinese architecture were implemented throughout the house.
Traditionally in Chinese architecture, the roof is a crucial feature. It is a heavy roof made light by its lilting ends that seem to motion the roof to the sky. Similarly for this concrete house, the roof has become a defining architectural gesture on Acadia Road. Inspired by the form of a thinning bar of soap, the roof’s ends have also been sculpted to “lift up” to evoke lightness. The strength of the roof is achieved through a “stressed skin” construction. It consists of two layers of plywood that are applied to the roof structure to create a unifying structural component. The zinc cladding on the rooftop is to provide a “cover” for the roof, whereas the zinc cladding on the soffit and interior is a finish. The roof was fabricated offsite complete with the skin and delivered to the site in seven pieces. They were then “stitched” together to complete the shape before the application of zinc panels.
Throughout the house, the roof gives the impression of floating like a very light cloud. [Bing Thom Architects]