SAOTA creates family getaway experience with Lake Huron residence in Canada

South African firm SAOTA builds a contemporary dwelling within the ‘cabin country’ architectural context in Ontario, employing stacking and suspension techniques in its design.

by STIRworld Published on : Jul 03, 2020

Lake Huron residence marks South African firm SAOTA’s Canadian debut. The residence, idealised as a regal summer retreat, sits modestly on the banks of Lake Huron in a remote town close to Ontario, Canada. A radical deviation from local “cabin country" architecture, the building offers a contemporary disruption that is masterfully integrated within the existing landscape. Reimagining the family getaway paradigm, the firm harnessed technological advancements and regenerative principles to create an inimitable environment set respectfully within its context.

SAOTA’s Lake Huron sits discreetly in the surrounding forested landscape | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
SAOTA’s Lake Huron sits discreetly in the surrounding forested landscape Image Credit: Adam Letch

The site is located on an eroded bank, a transient space between water and wood. This intermediate space or bluff rises 3.5 meters above the street level before retreating to the water as a grassy embankment. The building is set back towards the street in a pragmatic response to protect the bluff. The front of the Lake Huron residence is discreetly veiled by the surrounding fir tree landscape, which evokes illusions of a stone box floating between the tree trunks. At the rear of the house, SAOTA has incorporated a double-height glass wall that passively exploits daylight penetration for the interiors of the building.

  • Lake Huron - Site plan| Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    Lake Huron - Site plan Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • The immediate wood/water building context surrounding Lake Huron residence | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    The immediate wood/water building context surrounding Lake Huron residence Image Credit: Adam Letch

Deliberately obscured from the street interface, the residence boasts of an amplified sense of presence as it appears to the visitor upon entering from the main door. This experience of anticipation accounts for an innate theatricality to the design experience created by SAOTA, which is based in Cape Town.

The main entrance to Lake Huron designed by SAOTA| Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
The main entrance to Lake Huron designed by SAOTA Image Credit: Adam Letch

The arrangement of the dwelling’s internal and external spaces is a direct response to the explicit character and atmosphere the site creates. The design concept relies on the stacking and suspension technique of massing to separate the house into different volumes in accordance with the site topography. This series of overlapping rectangular elements includes one box, which serves to root the building into the ground, while others suspended overhead allow the living quarters to be linked between the volumes. The southern elevation features a part indoor/outdoor volume that provides the house with expansive views to the lakeside in addition to further anchoring of the building. The bedrooms have been projected backwards and are placed above the garage.

  • Exterior view showing overlapping building elements of the contemporary dwelling | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    Exterior view showing overlapping building elements of the contemporary dwelling Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • Sections showing building arrangement overview| Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    Sections showing building arrangement overview Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • The framing of lakeside vistas | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    The framing of lakeside vistas Image Credit: Adam Letch

Satisfying the programmatic requirements of the client brief, SAOTA’s building plan follows a simple and structured layout that also prioritises fluidity and ease in circulation. The vast central volumes create a feeling of openness, giving way to more intimate and contained spaces such as the kitchen and living quarters – the spatial sequencing guiding the layout at every stage.

  • First floor plan | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    First floor plan Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • The vast central volumes | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    The vast central volumes Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • Fluidity between interior spaces at Lake Huron residence | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    Fluidity between interior spaces at Lake Huron residence Image Credit: Adam Letch

The entire upper level of the house is dedicated to the privacy of the owners, as it accommodates the master bedroom, an office and a gym. A sheltered outdoor entertainment zone flanks the swimming pool on the front of the house. What was once a refurbished cabin now houses an additional entertainment area and a guest suite, which can be accessed by a boardwalk and staircase.

  • Master bedroom interior decoration by SAOTA’s ARRCC division | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    Master bedroom interior decoration by SAOTA’s ARRCC division Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • Outdoor entertainment zone | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    Outdoor entertainment zone Image Credit: Adam Letch

Lake Huron successfully integrates a number of effective strategies to ensure it performs at its optimal level and with due consideration to sustainability. Identified as the client’s favourite room - the ‘engine room’ houses the building services infrastructure, including a commercial-grade Building Automation System (BAS) that monitors and controls the mechanical, security, fire, lighting and humidity control and ventilation systems in the building. The power supply for the house is provided by a 15-kilowatt solar array, which feeds back the excess power into the utility grid, creating a circular loop. To address the issue of limited municipal infrastructure for storm and sewer water, an underground storm water system capable of handling a 100-year storm has been installed, and an eco-flo septic system deals with the sewer requirements.

SAOTA has employed a clean and simple material palette throughout the project. The finishes use a hardwearing ceramic panel system both internally and externally; the material rationale being durability (accounting for Canada’s extreme climatic conditions) and sustainable impact. The ceramic façade tones are intentionally varied such that along with the glass they clearly accentuate the distinct building volumes.

  • Building elevations highlighting chosen material palette | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    Building elevations highlighting chosen material palette Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • Exterior view showing ceramic panel variations | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    Exterior view showing ceramic panel variations Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • Contemporary aesthetic adopted by residence’s interiors | Lake Huron Residence by SAOTA | STIRworld
    Contemporary aesthetic adopted by residence’s interiors Image Credit: Adam Letch

SAOTA, in collaboration with Matter Architectural Studio, has designed a collection of custom-made details for the residence, setting it apart from the surrounding architecture in the city of Ontario. Elemax, an exterior building façade system manufacturer was appointed to assist with the creation of custom ceramic fin details for the façade. Together, they also detailed inset window conditions for the glass to maximise on unencumbered views of the natural landscape.

Project Details

Name: Lake Huron
Location: Ontario, Canada
Lead designers: SAOTA
SAOTA Project Team: Mark Bullivant, Johan Basson & Paulina Paz
Architect of Record: Matter Architectural Studio Inc.
Structural Engineer: Concentric Engineering
Electrical Engineer: Capson Electrical 
Contractor: MCI Design-Build Corporation
Landscaping: MHLA Inc
Lighting Design: SAOTA with assistance from Lux Populi 
Interior Designer: ARRCC 
Bespoke Furniture: OKHA 

(Text by Saamia Makharia, an intern at stirworld.com)

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