Situated on a narrow lot in an older Toronto neighbourhood, the Skygarden House provides outdoor living spaces on multiple levels to address the owners’ desire for a better connection to the home’s natural surroundings. The owners used to spend their weekends at their country home, located next to a stream and surrounded by trees; they wanted their new home in the city to mimic this bucolic experience in an urban environment, and they wanted their home to be as sustainable as possible.
Global Architecture & Design Awards 2018
Third Award | Category: Interior – Corporate (Built)
Architects: Dubbeldam Architecture + Design
Team Members: Heather Dubbeldam, Jacob JeBailey, Oliver Dang, Amber Baechler, Suzanna MacDonald
Although the house is only 2,420 square feet, it feels much larger—its rooms expand beyond the interior to a series of useable outdoor spaces that enrich the domestic experience, each with its own unique character and varying level of privacy. The rear yard is landscaped and features a generously scaled thermally-treated ash wood deck, and a few steps down, another zone defined by granite pavers is planted with a row of honey locust trees that offer dappled light and shade in summer. Even the existing porch at the front of the house is remade into a private outdoor dining room enclosed by a five-foot-high wood screen, extending the private realm into the public arena. On the third floor, two outdoor spaces provide green respite. An exposed roof deck at the back of the house has plentiful views over the neighbourhood and into the extensive green canopy surrounding the house. At the front of the house, half of the master bedroom is given over to an intimate exterior space clad in the warm ash, with a recessed planter and an opening carved into the roof for natural light, access to rainwater, and ample views of green. Intimately connected to the master suite, this “skygarden” functions as a unique outdoor room, open to the sky, sun, wind and stars.
The complete overhaul of the house resulted in a significant reduction in its ecological footprint. To achieve the most efficient methods of heating, cooling and lighting while minimizing costs, the mechanical and electrical systems are integrated with passive design strategies. Highly efficient infloor radiant heating, high velocity cooling systems, superior insulation, and energy-saving fixtures and appliances were introduced, and combined with passive sustainable systems to optimize energy use in all seasons. The open plan is organized around a central vertical volume containing the sculptural open-riser stair. A large operable skylight above draws natural light deep into the interior and improves natural ventilation through stack effect, reducing the need for air conditioning. The abundance of glazing coupled with the house’s east-west orientation results in plenty of natural light at all hours of the day, decreasing the need for artificial lighting. Site vegetation screens the west façade to mitigate glare and excessive heat gain in summer months, but in winter, when the leaves are gone, solar gain from low sun is encouraged to help heat the house. Skygarden House is a modern home that considers the context of the street and carefully reimagines its interior spaces and their relationship to the outdoors.
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