by Jincy IypeSep 13, 2022
Nestled within the conservative, early 20th century Winnipeg suburb of Old Tuxedo in Canada, the Veil House stands as a testament to the fusion of tradition and modernity. Designed by the Winnipeg-based Canadian architecture firm 5468796 Architecture, this example of residential architecture artfully blends the geometric patterns of the neighbourhood’s neo-Gothic and neo-Georgian houses with innovative design concepts, resulting in a striking yet harmonious addition to the local architectural fabric.
Amidst the grandeur of historical homes and lush greenery, Veil House rises as a modern antithesis to its surroundings. However, aesthetically counterpointed as it is, it is far from being disrespectful. Designed for a couple seeking a residence to age in place, the home balances airiness and privacy, while staying inherently true to the aesthetic sensibilities of the neighbourhood.
The home is organised on a loose nine-square grid, centred around a tranquil courtyard. Instead of relying on conventional walls and doors, the house is composed of free-flowing open living spaces—including living, family, dining, and kitchen areas—juxtaposed against solid utility blocks housing washrooms, laundry, a fireplace, storage, and appliances. This arrangement establishes distinct zones without interrupting visual or acoustic connections.
The interplay of volumes within the house adds intrigue and dynamism. Double-height spaces, such as the sloped ceilings in the kitchen and family room, the infinite ceiling in the dining room, the double-volume in the living room, and the open volume in the central courtyard, subvert the grid pattern and create a sense of spaciousness. The play of volumes inside the house is offset by interconnected spaces that lend an intimate quality to the airy spaces.
Remarkably, the house is situated at grade, defying the local norm, even in a city known for heavy snowfall. This decision was made possible by incorporating an interior ramp that serves as both a circulation route and a universal access feature. This ramp allows natural light into the basement and provides emergency egress while seamlessly extending the interior spaces to the courtyard and surrounding yard.
The defining feature of the appropriately named Veil House, is the weathered steel "veil" that envelops it. This veil, following the contours of the structure, appears to float in space in a delicate dance between heaviness and lightness. Strategically perforated, it invites daylight into the interiors, offers glimpses of the exterior, and filters views from inside-out. It creates a connection between the inside and the outside while simultaneously wrapping the house in a shroud of privacy.
Interestingly, the veil is reminiscent of the deep hip roofs found in the traditional homes of the neighbourhood, and also establishes a connection between the past and the present. Its material, intentionally chosen for its durability in Winnipeg's climate, showcases a patina that blends with the surroundings and introduces a contemporary contrast.
"Weathered steel has a velvet-like patina that possesses a keen material sensibility while also giving the house a restrained presence. Its longevity is assured by Winnipeg’s dry and often sunny climate. While the material is foreign to the neighbourhood, the geometry is familiar, reflecting the deep and tall hip roofs of its neo-Gothic and neo-Georgian neighbours,” the studio outlines.
The role of the veil is not limited to the outside. Inside the home, the architects skilfully manipulated the veil's presence to shape the interior aesthetics. The interconnectedness of spaces is emphasised by the presence of a staircase connecting three levels and a ramp mirroring the flow of the veil. The ground floor houses public spaces with an open layout, while the second floor holds a private primary bedroom suite, sequestered from the rest of the house. The cedar-clad interior exudes warmth, while the play of light and shadow generates a dynamic atmosphere. Sloped ceilings and unique moments arise, offering both spatial differentiation and privacy.
Veil House stands as a captivating work of architecture that harmonises with its historic neighbourhood while pushing the boundaries of design. It serves as both a residence and a sculpture, evoking connections between structure and decoration, industry and artistry.
Through careful manipulation of form, light, and material, 5468796 Architecture has transformed the mundane into something exemplary. The veil, an enigmatic external layer, adds intrigue, privacy, playfulness, and mystique to the house's identity. Inside the house, privacy and connection exist in harmony. This unique marriage of innovation and context creates a home that not only serves the present but also contributes to the architectural legacy of the future.
Name: Veil House
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Design Firm: 5468796 Architecture
Year of completion: 2022
Interiors: Linda Levit - XYZ Design Inc.
Structural Engineer: Lavergne Draward & Assoc. [LDA]
Civil Engineer & Surveyor: Barnes & Duncan Surveying Geomatics & Engineering
Geotechnical Engineer: Eng-Tech Consulting Ltd.