Bridge House

Crossing a steep ravine, the house articulates a divided plot
The house responds to its landscape, mirroring the ravine over which it sits
Interior clad exclusively in maple
Front window and central area
Front window/ 12 meter opening towards the lake
Symmetrical layout with a family unit at each end
House anchored from foundations at each end
Landmark / public path to beach
Fixed furniture built into walls
Glulam strut doubles as staircase
Lake front façade and balcony
Staircase/ access from central area to roof terrace

Primary Authors

  • Mariana Leguia/LLAMA urban design
  • Angus Laurie/LLAMA urban design

Contributing Authors

  • Patrick Webb/LLAMA urban design (Collaborator)
  • Alvaro Rivadeneira/LLAMA urban design (Collaborator)
  • Mike Feindel/Blackwell structural engineers (Project engineer)

Author

  • N/A

Photographers

  • Ben Rahn

Objectives

To emphasize the house’s character as a bridge, the design reveals its structural system. The most important elements are the two inverted V-shaped glulam struts from which the house is suspended. These are offset from the lakefront and forest facades allowing the front window to have a 12 meter opening towards the lake and a staircase towards the forest. The 2 glulam struts support five steel I-Beams which carry the floor and roof assemblies. The ensemble produces a sense of lightness true to the house’s character as a bridge. The precise plans enabled the prefabrication of the principal structural components offsite. This meant that these could be mounted in less than a week. The drawings systematized the interior cladding to reduce waste material and labor costs. The wood finishes were locally sourced from trees that are common on the property; maple for the interior, and unstained cedar for the exterior. The exclusive use of maple for the interior cladding, and fixed furniture gives a unifying character. This achieves a muted and rational quality that contrasts and compliments the wild character of the Canadian north.

Context

The house was commissioned by the new generation of a family who have been visiting the area since the 1940s. Their strong connection to the Great Lakes, and St Lawrence Forest is reflected in the design as a response to the landscape. Its structure mirrors the ravine over which it sits, and its geometry echoes the horizon of the lake. The west façade opens towards the landscape, converting the living space into a covered balcony overlooking Mary Lake through the trees. The east facade faces the forest, visible through a large window which follows the form of the inverted V–shaped glulam structure, mirroring the natural outline of the ravine. This simple gesture celebrates the experience of the place, not only as one walks through the house, over and across the ravine, but also when heading down to the waterfront. The inverted V–shaped glulam structure doubles as a support for the exterior stairs, connecting the interior social area with the roof deck, located 9 metres above the ravine floor, placing the user at the height of the tree canopy. In its interior, a carefully crafted wooden finish, clad only in large panels of maple plywood, acts as a backdrop to observe the subtle movements of nature. Here, the play of light and shadow created by the movement of the trees is complemented by the lapping sound of small waves on the beach.

Performance

The house balances open spaces to observe the changing landscape with sheltered corners. The symmetrical layout places a family unit, with 2 bedrooms a small foyer and one bathroom at each end. These are connected to the suspended living area through a linear library built as fixed furniture into the rear wall of the house. The more public programs, including the kitchen, living room and dining room are at the center of the house. This area is intended as a flexible space, adaptable to any number of uses. This layout creates privacy between the owners and their guests. The circulation corresponds to the principal of providing open public areas, and sheltered private areas, by controlling the access in four separate paths: - Each family unit has its own exit at each end of the house - The stairs work as a semi-public entrance, allowing access between the central area of the house and the open roof terrace - The house also works as a bridge, facilitating public access from one side of the ravine to the other - The house is a landmark for a public path which leads down to the beach The bridge house was set further back from the lake than required to protect mature trees, and to allow the landscape to remain as natural as possible. It works within the dichotomy of being both a shelter and a balcony in the woods, a bridge and a house.

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Crossing a steep ravine, the house articulates a divided plot