Park Road House

Park Road House in Toronto, Ontario, Canada by Donald McKay and Company, 1992

Situated in a suburban area of Toronto, Ontario, the Park Road House by Donald McKay and Company is an exercise in technology and contextuality. Standing out from its neighbors primarily in shape the house uses common materials, brick and wood, with uncommon ones (in residential applications), steel framing and metals, to create a tension within its context. The house, though, is suburban in its program: introverted with outdoor spaces oriented to the backyard.

The street elevation calls attention to the entrance with a steel canopy projecting parallel to the main, three-story mass of the house. The two-story entrance volume incorporates low ribbon-windows and wood siding to help decrease the scale of the house towards the street. The rear of the house incorporates awnings, similar to the entry canopy, with large expanses of glass, steel mesh and exposed bracing. Inside the house is a mixture of rich, wooden surfaces and exposed steel framing, painted a color similar to the brick exterior.

It is evident the house was designed with a deep concern for tectonics, coupled with an ability to create interesting spaces from that concern. Separations between levels and rooms are signaled by structural members, sometimes juxtaposed with planar surfaces, sometimes solitary. This modernist means of subtly transitioning between spaces reaches a greater complexity inside as layers of structure and materials are integrated in different ways.

Possibly the greatest lesson that can be learned from the Park Road House is its ability to use modern materials and methods in a suburban context. The design's simple, yet layered composition sometimes reaches towards artistry, especially in the outdoor elements projecting from the house proper. In these the potential of the method becomes apparent: tectonics as expression of self. A good lesson indeed in a suburban landscape where individuality in house design has almost disappeared.