by Jincy IypeSep 13, 2022
The project was designed with the intention of becoming the primary residence of principal architect Omar Gandhi, his partner, and his son, sitting above a ground-level studio that was initially proposed to become the firm’s East Coast home base. However, over the course of the build, the studio itself grew to a level that could no longer be accommodated in the modest space. Subsequently, the ground floor is now a dedicated community studio, focused on OGA's community projects in the North End of Halifax, including housing for the homeless and safe public amenities.
In plan, the office design is composed of the main studio (house at upper levels) and a shed at the rear—connected by a thick brick and sandstone stone-capped wall. A gentle, rounded corner at the intersection of the driveway and sidewalk pulls visitors and homeowners to the rear of the house. The gentle curve is repeated in various forms throughout the home. The formal massing is composed of a two-storey, eastern white cedar-clad volume atop a buff-coloured, brick cradle.
Their first instinct when considering designs for the new office architecture was to use a minimal palette of various textures of black finishes which contrasts the overwhelmingly white and wooden interior. "The aim was to create a more gritty and raw version of what already existed and what had previously been in the space. The overwhelmingly black furnishings and finishes set the tone as a muted background to our massive collection of wood models," explains Omar Gandhi, principal architect and founder of the firm.
Deliberately and predominantly inward-looking, few visible windows look out at the street or rear of the property. The upper wood volume, composed of the living amenities, has full-height glazing in both the kitchen on the second floor and the master bedroom on the third floor hidden behind a western red cedar veil. The veil (or screen) provides privacy for both Gandhi and his family and those on the sidewalk below. In the evening, the screen monitor comes to life with a soft glow of warm light. The rear of the wood-clad volume includes a long wall-to-wall slot window at sitting height, allowing for a pleasant view of the brick courtyard and the (future) wall of climbing Boston ivy. Custom bronze brick lights dot key sections of the façade design, for evening lighting while disappearing into the brick’s texture during the day.
The primary entry for both the office (at ground level) and the house is situated at the rear of the property through a courtyard of brick architecture and down a full-width brick stairwell. At the top of the first run of stairs is a brick and wood-lined powder room made secure with a nine-foot-tall, raw steel pivot door. A custom sink carved from a white oak block is mounted on the wall.
Wood-lined stairwells invite one up, as handrails with organic, custom-designed bronze brackets emerge from the seams of the white oak paneling.
The second floor, clad entirely in white oak paneling, houses the kitchen, dining, and living room spaces. Carved into the end of the volume, adjacent to the street is a two-storey lightwell that reaches the full height of the house. Intensive lighting studies and parametric modelling techniques were used to find the form of lightwell shape that would provide optimal natural lighting conditions throughout the length of the living space. A long, white bar of millwork connects the wooden interior—housing all storage, kitchen amenities, wood storage, and the wood-burning fireplace. A white oak kitchen island and a dining table, interject the geometry of the room with their curved edges, chamfered for fluid movement through the area.
The interior design of the private third floor incorporates two bedrooms. One of these, that of the Canadian architect’s son, looks down into the living room lightwell through a strategic opening in a wall submerged behind cabinetry and an open desk. Two monochrome bathrooms co-exist on the same floor, both featuring full-length skylights. These aerial openings provide dynamic glimpses into the coastal city’s extreme weather conditions and dramatic skies. Up one final flight of stairs is the roof space which includes a small sitting area and garden on the street side of the house.
As a practice, OGA strives to implant its structures deeply into the soil of context. “We salvaged and used as much of the existing building finishes already and implemented new furnishings, lighting, and floor and wall treatments,” elaborates Gandhi.
The brick podium, housing the studio, is composed of one of two natural clay brick tones—buff, predominantly used for ordinary building stock in the region. The common bond was used to acknowledge the traditional patterns and textures used in the brick architecture of the city from a century prior. Efforts were made to introduce sustainable elements such as ezoBord, which is an acoustic wall and ceiling treatment made from recycled water bottles.
The cedar-clad façade, intentionally deployed as the exterior material had already lost much of its vibrancy and faded gently to resemble much of the weathered wood textures of the neighbourhood, by the end of construction. This is perhaps a visual symbol of OGA’s commitment to creating meaningful, relatable spaces of Canadian architecture formed by the character of their experiences, their culture, and their city.
Name: OG House
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Project Status: Completed Summer 2021
Clients: Omar and Adrian Gandhi
Architect Team: Omar Gandhi, Jordan Rice, Jeff Shaw, Jeff Walker, Kelly Cameron, Lauren McCrimmon, John Gray Thomson, Kristi MacDonald, Chad Jamieson, Liam Thornewell, Stephanie Hosein
Contractor: Hewn + Barter, MRB Contracting
Structural: Andrea Doncaster Engineering
Physical Model: Chad Jamieson, Omar Gandhi
Natural Lighting Optimization Study: Lacunae (Roly Hudson)
Specialty Steel and Stone Fabrication: Filo Timo, Urban Handcrafts, Aaline, Nova Tile & Marble
Masonry: Maritime Masonry, Brunswick Stone
Specialty Millwork: Brodye Chappell