by Jincy IypeJan 30, 2021
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)