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Monday, August 30, 2010

40R_Laneway House

40R_Laneway House in Toronto, Ontario, Canada by superkül inc | architect

Photographs are by Tom Arban Photography.

Occupying buildings located off of alleys is one strategy for adding density to residential areas in cities and suburbs, but one illegal in many North American jurisdictions. Carriage houses -- or in this case laneway houses -- are typically smaller than the primary residence on a lot, but they can be just as comfortable, with design that intelligently deals with site, size, and other constraints. In Toronto's Summerhill neighborhood, superkül inc | architect converted a former blacksmith's shop / horse shed / artist's live-work space into a residence for an artist and her husband.

The constraints of the project are many. Primarily the existing footprint allowed only two feet of expansion on one of the short sides of the 18' (5.4m) by 40' (12m) lot, and no additional openings could be made in the exterior walls. These pointed to a vertical expansion, which became usable outdoor space (not allowed otherwise) when combined with a new courtyard cut from the existing volume. Skylights over shafts bring natural light to the first floor.

Inside the white and light-filled spaces belie these conditions. Living and kitchen/dining are located on the ground floor, on either side of the central stair and service core. Above are two small bedrooms bracketing the courtyard. The project becomes a good model for infill carriage/laneway houses, because it inadvertantly deals with what many people see as the undesirable context of the service alley, by reaching up for space and light. The wall windows are small and few, elevating their importance both in terms of natural light/vent and views out.

If the interior focuses inward and upward, the exterior embraces its context, physically and historically. The old building's rusty cladding was removed, cataloged, treated, and reinstalled in a patchwork that gives the house its striking expression. The remaining sides feature black-stained cedar and touches like a recycled, graffiti-covered door (image at left). At first glance the structure resembles a relic; perhaps that is intentional. The design finds inspiration in its previous lives, making the past part of the present, reassembled in a new way.

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