Cottaging is a quintessential component of Canadian culture and with all its associated nostalgia, tends to be a stronghold of vernacular architecture, making contemporary approaches to the cabin archetype all the more interesting. While the modernist-glass-box-in-the-wilderness approach continues to be employed - gh3’s minimal photographer’s studio over a boathouse in the Kawartha’s featured here provides a particularly compelling example with its highly edited all-white interior finishes receding into vistas of the lake on all sides - other examples from Ontario’s cottage country break away from this model borrowing on traditional cottage forms and massing in unexpected ways and employing unconventional (almost blithe in the case of UUfie’s A-Frame) material language.
RAW Design’s Haliburton cottage was, in the architect’s words, “envisioned as a lightly treading response to its rugged surroundings”. Three discrete volumes house spaces for living, sleeping and guests with a bridge connecting to the “lookout tower” master suite; evoking the form frequently seen in cottages which have evolved through several rounds of renovations and additions as families expand, but also providing an interesting response to the sloping forms of the Boreal shield’s Precambrian granite bedrock. Far from traditional knotty pine paneling, the contemporary interior features exposed cast concrete and glulam framing, embracing composite materials that maximize efficiency while maintaining a tactile quality appropriate to its setting.
UUfie’s post-modern take on the traditional A-frame cabin in the Kawartha Lakes District takes a highly playful approach. While naturally termite and fire repellent charred cedar covers much of the exterior, the front porch carved out from the volume is clad in mirrors, giving the façade an illusory quality. Pale birch ply enshrouds much of the interior, with the addition of scalloped shingles stained a pale blue adding colour and texture to the ceiling of the loft space. A separate volume containing the dining space collides with the main living area, providing another example of appropriation of the layers of additions typical of so many cottages, going so far as to continue a row of windows along the interior wall. Conceived as a reinterpretation of living in a tree house, the play of interior/exterior modalities extends this sense of the built form mingling with its site.
While shared themes such as an aim of maximizing views while minimizing invasiveness on the landscape are to be expected, the pattern of architect designed spaces mimicking the qualities of cottages that have emerged and evolved over time without a master strategy in place, is somewhat more surprising.
Want to see more amazing examples from these firms?
Written and researched by Miranda Corcoran, an Industrial Design student at OCAD University.