#0620 - New Construction - Residential
The project is a single family house for a surgeon and a scientist with three young children. The clients’ express desire for a house that embodied simplicity, material warmth, and above all, a rational and authentic composition was the origin of the design concept.
The site is on the Red River near downtown Winnipeg in an established neighbourhood. A smaller house was removed after selective harvesting of the material resource. In this area of the city, single family residential lots are situated between the river and the road and the lots are typically 50 feet wide. The shape of the river channel in this location is straight, and the road that accesses the lot runs parallel to it. The long sides of the lot are parallel to each other, but meet the street and the river at acute angles of approximately 23 degrees.
Living on the river in Winnipeg is roughly the equivalent of living on the ocean or with a view of the mountains in other cities. While it is highly desirable to live on the river, the river‘s banks are prone to instability. Factors of safety keep the house a prudent distance from the water. Other setbacks are required by Zoning regulations, and the build-able area of the lot is a parallelogram 40’ wide by 60’ long.
By extruding the build-able area of the site to accommodate two floors, the form allows for the optimizing of views, natural light, and privacy. At the same time, the house strives to be a good neighbour that does not block anyone else’s view or access to light.
The design resolves this family’s domestic program in a straight forward manner. “Public” rooms are grouped on the river side in an open and minimal space that maximizes views of the river. A central two storey volume with clerestory windows, encourages passive ventilation from all of the rooms. The centrally located stair straddles the two halves of the house and the landing supports extensive bookshelves for this learned family. The shelves are designed to be accessed from either landing or floor, preventing the need for a ladder. “Private” spaces are located on the second floor. The parents’ bedroom, screen room and terrace overlook the river, while the three childrens‘ bedrooms overlook the street.
The diagonal of the site, set by the river intersecting with the lot lines, approximates closely the angle produced by the diagonal bisection of a 4’ x 8’ sheet of plywood. An underlying grid of full and bisected 4’ x 8’ modules regulates the plan. A white, cast-in-place concrete wall divides the house into riverside and street side. A glue laminated timber frame of Doug Fir supports the floors overlooking the river.
The owners expressed a strong desire for an uncluttered and easily cleanable, allergen-free zone to live in. This objective led to the use of smooth and hard surfaces such as terrazzo flooring and quartz composite countertops. Radiant heating in the floors and the judicious use of Doug Fir, both in the exposed structure and in the well-crafted stairs and landings, help to create a feeling of warmth. The play of authentic material textures, form coarse to fine, busy to plain, transparent to opaque, was composed to produce an effect both stimulating and serene. The use of Doug Fir was also a nod to one of the client’s west coast upbringing.
Each exterior face of the house responds to its orientation in a direct way. The wall facing the view is primarily transparent. A cowling of durable metal protects the top and the two solid sides, while the street side projects a welcoming and friendly stained-wood front facade.