The Integral House
Thursday 13 Jun 2013


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The Integral House creates a place for architecture, music and performance located at the threshold between Toronto’s urban fabric and its extensive natural ravines system. In the project’s program brief, our client clearly articulated his dual passion for mathematics and music and his interest in curvilinear shapes resulting in spatially complex volumes.

The section of the house parallels the experience of descending the ravine slope as well as ascending into the tree tops. The key moment of the journey through the project is a performance space for 150-200 people to gather, located a full floor below entry level and visually intertwined with the ravine landscape. Upper level dining and living areas double as balconies during a performance and provide additional seating overlooking the performance space.

Each story of the building has a different and emphatic relationship to the ravine landscape. At the lower floors, the experience of the forest floor is primary. As one ascends through the house, both the palette and spatial experiences lightens until one reaches the airy tree tops. Sustainability is integrated into the project and not considered as mere features. Beneath the entry driveway, twenty three geothermal pipes provide heating and cooling for the main performance space and the residence.

The demands of an assembly space for large events and gatherings necessitate an approach that is simultaneously energy efficient and extremely quiet. The project’s extensive green roof reduces the heat island effect and serves as a visual feature that can be viewed from many parts of the building. The vertical wooden fins provide sun shading on the exterior and contribute to the acoustical performance of the performance space. Materials have been selected for their aesthetic contribution as well as their enduring qualities based on life cycle costing calculations.

Many experiments and explorations can be found throughout the project – fireplaces, staircases, and door handles. One such element is a blue glass stair, the result of collaboration between glass artist Mimi Gellman, glass fabricator Norbert Sattler, Shim-Sutcliffe Architects, and structural engineer David Bowick. As a site-specific commissioned art work, the stair is composed of hand-blown, laminated blue glass shingles supported by cast bronze clips and stainless steel cables. Laminated, translucent glass treads span laser cut steel treads and allows natural light to filter from a large upper skylight through the staircase to the spaces below. The Integral House’s blue glass stair is the result of an on-going collaboration between an artist, architect and engineer working together to realize an ethereal space for inhabitation.

Shim-Sutcliffe Architects Inc.