Architectural Credit: COMN Architects Inc.
Location: Toronto, Ont.
Architect: COMN Architects Inc.
OAA Design Excellence Awards Finalist
Semi Semi is a small-scale residential intensification project, self-initiated by a pair of young architects seeking to put down roots in Toronto. Previously the site of a dilapidated single-family dwelling, the 16’ x 78’ lot on a busy corner in the city’s east end was divided to allow for two small semi-detached homes; one for the married architects to reside, and one used for long-term rental accommodation.
In response to the site’s busy location and limited footprint, the homes are organized vertically in a split-level configuration. Each function-specific level bleeds into the next, with an openness and sequence of space evocative of a much larger home. The project also explores techniques for natural lighting in an urban environment, while ensuring a certain level of privacy is maintained. Living spaces are elevated from street level, with large west-facing windows located just above passersby. Perforated aluminum provides screening for the interior, as well as the top-level courtyards, carved out to create secluded light-filled bedrooms.
Located along an arterial road adjacent to Toronto’s Greektown, the site is within close proximity to public transportation and a host of other urban amenities—an ideal location for intensification. The corner lot was divided perpendicular to its side lot lines, allowing each frontage to be addressed with an entrance. The massing was organized into three volumes, similar in size to the neighbouring buildings, maintaining the rhythm of the street wall. Its semi-detached form, a building type ubiquitous in Toronto, is evident in the subtle symmetry of materials and building elements.
Semi Semi’s compact and efficiently designed units are inherently sustainable; small homes require less resources to construct and operate than their larger counterparts. Also, the shared partywall reduces exterior wall area, lessening winter heat loads. Large west-facing windows with motorized blackout shades are programmed to control sunlight and optimize solar gain through automation.