Project Showcase: Garden Avenue Laneway House, Toronto, ON
Both modern and homey, classic but contemporary. The Garden Avenue Laneway House by Williamson Williamson Inc. is a Toronto laneway house designed to perfectly fit a family of five. The home’s two main facades, which look onto the laneway and the back of the original house, are clad in an alternating pattern of offset Belcrest 500 molded brick.
WEAVING MAGIC INTO THE CITY FABRIC
The Garden Avenue Laneway House is a 2,300-square-foot four-bedroom home. Whereas most of the laneway suites built in Toronto under the 2018 by-law are small rental units or bonus rooms that add amenities - and area - to the main house, this laneway suite was designed to be a primary residence. The kitchen, dining, and living space are on the top level, with the largest floorplate and the best light. Bedrooms for three teen boys are nested on the ground floor, and an ample basement space contains a primary bedroom lit with a large lightwell. The main house was converted into a legal two-unit principal rental, allowing three families on a single-family lot during construction.
With its expressive dormer window tower, the new laneway house peeks out like an architectural curiosity from behind an existing house in Roncesvalles that the couple bought four years ago. They had initially intended to demolish and rebuild the primary residence for their forever home and build an auxiliary structure at its rear as an income property. But they felt the laneway home was a beautiful solution for a custom abode – that house, they decided, would become their primary residence. Brick was selected to give the laneway house the robust presence of places on the main street. Unlike the wood and shingle-clad garages typical of the laneways, the house was designed to feel like a primary home.
CREATING SOMETHING BOTH MODERN AND HOMEY
The aesthetic goals were to bring beauty to the laneway and create facades animated with light. Brick was essential to this because it is a solid modular material. It can make a pattern that will produce shadows while providing excellent building envelope performance for the long term. The pattern breaks up the solid facade, and the shadows change as the sun moves around the house.
The family uses the laneway as their front door. The entrance is recessed deep under the carport canopy, ensuring privacy from the cars that access the garages surrounding the home. The facades facing the street and the laneway, south, and north, respectively, are primarily solid. The by-law glazing limitations reinforce the desire for privacy from the Principal Rental's laneway and rear windows. Animating the brick facade breaks up this solidity with pattern and shadow. Courses of twisted and nested brick alternate with flat courses. As the bricks are rotated from the plane, they create a triangular shadow pattern on the flat course below. The Garden Avenue home is not a utilitarian building on a laneway but one that has presence and enlivens the laneway as a traditional home does a street.
Architect: Williamson Williamson Inc.
Mason Contractor: Magnum Masonry
Brick Distributor: Mason’s Masonry Supply Ltd.
Photography: Scott Norsworthy
2022 Brick in Architecture Award, Gold – Residential Single-Family
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