Black Gables By Architect Omar Gandhi On Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

© Greg Richardson


Black Gables by architect Omar Gandhi sits on undisclosed bay in Louisdale on Cape Breton island, Nova Scotia

Despite its long history, the area has a sparse population, with the majority of residents having Acadian or Scottish origins. The economy is centred around farming, forestry, or fishing off the ragged coast.

Jonah Sampson, an acclaimed artist, collector and the local physician, commissioned a residence for a property that has been in his family for years. In fact, his family have resided in this part of Cape Breton for generations, and his parents still live down the road.


© Greg Richardson


On the edge of the little bay, across from a small island, the buildings sit on at the crest of the hill sloping up from the water. At night, lights from other residences dot the shoreline.

There are two buildings on the site. One serves as the primary residence, with the other as a studio and a dark room for Sampson to create his art.

The form of the buildings evoke a sea shanty – which nods to the ever-present history of this locale. The jet black is a modern diversion from the bright colours local buildings were often painted. The interior volume mirrors the exterior envelope including the pitch of the peak roof, with non-structural partitions that go up only to the height of the exterior walls demarcating the spacial plan. Andrea Doncaster did the structural engineering, which was conceived as a prefabricated wood frame to save on costs. The framing sits on a concrete slab and is clad in metal and cedar shingles, the roof is metal jacket; all of it was sourced locally.



© Greg Richardson


The goal of the project was to be economical in space and budget, but not in style. The total cost for both buildings was $300 000, which is less than $200 per square foot.

The primary residence is only 1200 square feet. Local labour and materials helped keep the budget modest. Sampson states it probably helped the contractors all knew his family.


© Greg Richardson


The placement of the buildings on the site supports the architect’s goals of playfulness, while making optimum use of the natural light and the site's stunning views. The design capitalizes on the landscape, with the exposure facing the water punctured with windows. Conversely, the interior wall facing inland runs the full length of the building uninterrupted, serving as a gallery wall for Sampson’s art collection.



© Greg Richardson


The black of the buildings is incongruous with their interiors, which is painted pure white and has a modular polished-concrete floor. Every room faces the lake and receive most of their light from the windows. They have recessed downlights that illuminate the rooms at night. The common area has a single chandelier, which hangs down above the modest dining table. The common area has some severely utilitarian aspects such as the de-emphasized kitchen, which occupies one wall adjacent to the dining table. This area is subordinate to the wide-open space afforded to the couches and coffee table. There is no television, only a radio, hinting at the lifestyle of the resident. Instead, books are piled high on economical wire shelves in Sampson’s small study next to his bedroom. The only other rooms in the house are the bathroom and mechanical room; the buildings have a simple programme for a simple lifestyle.


Visit photographer Greg Richardson’s website.

You can see architect Omar Gandhi’s other successes here.

And here's an earlier post showcasing one of Omar Gandhi's getaways.

Have a peek at resident Jonah Sampson’s website here. WARNING, some of it is NSFW.

Researched and Written by Robin R. V Whitteker, undergraduate student at OCAD University in the Environmental Design program, focusing on Architecture.

Posted In: Canada, Nova Scotia

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