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The dialogue between building and nature - structure and site - is among the most fundamental considerations in the design of a cottage. Whether it is through materiality, siting, scale, or views, cottages seek to establish meaningful and fulfilling connections with the landscapes they are sited in – and when done effectively, a cottage can further enhance the inherent beauty of the land (and waters) around it.
Situated among the spruce and birch forest of the Kawarthas, just east of Lake Simcoe, is an award winning structure that elegantly captures this building/nature relationship, all while employing an unapologetically modern architectural language. Lake Cottage, designed by Toronto-based architecture practice UUfie Inc., has been described as an earth-bound treehouse, where nature forms an intrinsic part of the building. In this post of our summer blOAAg series “Cottages, Cabins, and Camps” we take a look at this contemporary structure and its unique relationship with nature.
From the outside, Lake Cottage comes across as both traditional and contemporary. It’s simple, no-nonsense A frame roof evokes the archetypical Canadian cottage - it’s steep, 7 meter tall roof recalling Quebec’s 18th c. Villeneuve house, long considered an early precursor of Canada’s unique architectural identity. Meanwhile its rich material palette of charred cedar, black steel, and mirrors speak to its contemporary spirit, one that reflects current architectural preoccupations and multi-cultural influence. But whether referencing tradition or showcasing innovation, all these elements are deeply connected to the nature of the site – the highly pitched roof is a practical response to snowy Canadian winters; the mirrored outdoor terrace helps to visually extend the forest into the building.
Among the most interesting materials used in Lake Cottage is the exterior’s charred cedar siding. This unique treatment finds its origins in Japan where it is known as shou sugi ban.The technique, consisting of preserving wood by charring its surface, results in an all-natural material which is rot, pest and weather resistant, all without the use of additional preservatives and chemicals, and is practically maintenance free – a truly natural solution no a complex building problem.
The poetic relationship between building and nature continues on the inside, where materials, finishes, views and textures create a minimalist, natural and incredibly playful retreat. The main living space is designed as a self-contained space – a building within a building – while the peripheral rooms are treated as part of the site. Fourteen openings around this grand living space provide framed views of the peripheral inhabited spaces, as well as views towards the sky and trees, making interior and exterior landscapes inherently equal. Finishes and edges are left to showcase their natural origins; this is perhaps best exemplified by the solid timber staircase that climbs into a playfully sunlight loft.
All throughout the interior, playful references reinforce the connection to nature – the window frames in the dining area recall an abstract forest, while the fish-scale shingles of the loft are painted in a soft sky blue.
Through playful design and conscious material choices, Lake Cottage exemplifies fluidity between interior and exterior spaces, where the experience of living within nature is made within a contemporary setting. It’s unique design was recognized in 2015 with an OAA Design Excellence Award as well as the Michael V. and Wanda Plachta award.
This post is forms part of our blOAAg summer series "Cottages, Cabins, and Camps" exploring the architecture of one of Ontario's most beloved building types: the cottage. Check out the other posts in our series for more great cottages across the province!