Escarpment House

This house is located on Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula, facing Georgian Bay, sitting on the Niagara Escarpment’s limestone cliffs which are protected by the Niagara Escarpment Commission. The cliff top site exposes a sheer the limestone bedrock face.

Views are up and down the undulating coastline with views to promontories to the north and south. By contrast, the view out to Georgian Bay features an ocean-like horizon line. The house is long inhabited local limestone stone wall parallel to the cliffs, affording water views to all interior spaces. It contains a one bedroom, year-round, vacation house, with several small bed boxes and alcoves for guests, and provision for compartmentalization of heating in winter months.

One approaches this ‘wall house’ from the road through the woods, making it difficult to read as a whole object in the landscape. Instead, the form of the house is experienced like an infinite stone wall disappearing into the woods paralleling the 1600 kilometre Niagara Escarpment. The approach façade is spare. The entry and great room beyond are suggested by a sculptural clerestory and hearth.

On entry, the water view is initially withheld. One moves along the long axis of the house interior, past a series of private cocoon-like boxes and covered screened porches, under the undulating sculptural wood ceiling, which is hidden from the exterior. The roof is intended as a water collection device.

The plan reads as a pair of parallel stereotomic limestone walls which protect a series of internal wood boxes. The walls are expressed as the bedrock extended. The delicate wood roof spans between the long stone walls. The component spatial/formal/structural systems of the house are composed like the multiple tracks of a musical recording, resulting in both a clear parti and a complex yet legible spatial experience.

This stereotomic stone house is constructed of the local Niagara Escarpment stone, and laid by local masons, exploiting the local material culture, and inspired by the pristine stone farmhouses of the area. Perforated dovecote walls enclose two covered screened porches to allow cross ventilation and create a night time lantern effect. The private wood boxes, millwork and ceilings are constructed of local pine.

The standing seam metal roof directs rainwater to scuppers and water cisterns. The passive rainwater collection system is a primary space/form giver. The one room deep plan supports natural ventilation. It is a ‘locavore’ project with both materials and skills deriving from local material culture tradition.