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Monday, October 06, 2008

Courtyard House

Courtyard House in Toronto, Canada by Studio Junction

Photographs are by Rob Fiocca.

In an area of light industry in Toronto, Peter Tan and Christine Ho Ping of Studio Junction have transformed an old contractor's warehouse into a home and studio for them and their two kids. Given the conditions of the area, it's no surprise that the architect-clients chose to turn the focus of the house inwards, structuring the various spaces around a courtyard and a second-floor terrace.

The floor plans clearly illustrate the simple and relatively open plan. From the ground floor entry (above which one gets a glimpse of the narrow terrace space) one first encounters the double-height home office adjacent to the large kitchen- dining-living space. This last is adjacent to the large courtyard that is mirrored by the couple's studio, which has its own entry from the street. Upstairs are two bedrooms, a large shared bathroom, and the narrow terrace space that is bound by the bathroom and a clerestory for the home office.

The house is striking for the clarity and effectiveness of its introverted layout and for its materiality. Regarding the former, the architects liken it to a synthesis of the ancient and the new, the courtyard and the urban infill. They saw the house as an experiment for mid-block conditions, and therefore the house's natural light comes solely from windows facing onto the two outdoor spaces. The effectiveness of this approach is evident in the photos, but one notices that this approach embraces the shadows, unlike much contemporary residential architecture that wraps the interiors in glazing and effectively drowns out the differences between light and dark.

Owing to this quality of depth are the woods used throughout, mainly teak and mahogany. Evident from the entry portal's wood frame and the juxtaposition of wood and concrete block walls there, wood is used on almost every surface: floors, walls, ceiling, stairs, doors, cabinets. Naturally the material provides a warmth to the various rooms, but it also creates a cohesion and embrace that reinforces the internal focus of the house. Not surprisingly, the duo garnered a Wood Design Award last year, the first of certainly many more to come for the young practice.

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