Window to the Park

A contemporary expression in glass and stone, this Ottawa home draws its dramatic form from its unique park-edge site. Smart massing combined with careful articulation and complementary material choices allow this sizeable two-storey house to blend well with its neighbours and contribute to the historic streetscape. The composition can be summarized as a delicate assemblage of boxes, each dressed in stone, glass or wood and positioned in order to maximize views to the adjacent park; all-the-while maintaining a human scale and maintaining a sense of privacy.

The 1-acre site really has two front yards; one which faces eastward to the street, and a south-facing yard overlooking historic Hampton Park. The south yard is oversized due to a dramatic set-back imposed by the lot’s adjacency to the park—a well maintained and highly protected asset in the desirable Hampton-Iona neighbourhood.

The young family saw the property as a wonderful opportunity to create a home with the largest front yard on the street (considering the adjoining park) for their kids to play under a watchful eye from almost anywhere inside the house. A glass cube containing the living and dining room sits atop a raised terrace in the south yard, separated from the park only by a minimalistic concrete retaining wall. Viewed from the house, the grassy terrace appears to spill out onto the park like the waters of an infinity pool. Corner windows are placed throughout the rest of the house harnessing views toward the mature trees and capturing the warmth of the afternoon sun. Even the second floor master bathroom features a cantilevered window box which peeks out toward the greenspace.

While the home embraces the park with glassy openness, it receives a less permeable treatment on its street-facing exposure. While the street is single-lane and slow-moving, it is a major thoroughfare and can be noisy, dusty and busy during rush hour traffic. A limestone veil establishes a sense of security and reinforces the transition from public to private domain as one approaches the front door, about five paces beyond. The open passage through the stone veil can be obstructed by a concealed barn door, enhancing the wall’s primary function of noise control.

The home’s interior layout establishes a clear division between entertaining and family living, most notably seen in the reverse stair which rises forward from the back of the house. Inside the spacious front foyer, one can enter directly into the home office or the living/dining room, while the kitchen, family room and breakfast area are positioned toward the rear of the home at the foot of the staircase. Ultimately, the daytime and night-time family functions of the home are unbroken by the formal, “grown-up” spaces that were also essential to the design.

While rich in materials on the outside, featuring pillars of natural limestone and accents of cedar, mahogany and zinc, the interior is minimal in materiality and colouration, enhancing the many framed views toward the property’s unique natural environment. The ample windows, together with glass guardrails and open riser stairs, succeed to make the home feel unified, open and intensely connected with the outdoors. 

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