This contemporary clean-lined pavilion boathouse received the 2018 Canadian Woods Council Award.
AKB architects - also known as Atelier Kastelic Buffy - is a well-respected Toronto firm founded in 2004 by Robert Kastelic and Kelly Buffey. Blending their clients' requirements with the natural setting of the project, this Muskoka Boathouse showcases the uniqueness of their design program. The team that worked on this particular project included Kelly Buffey, Robert Kastelic, Shay Gibson, Tim Wat, and Alex Siu. Mazenga Building Group executed the project construction.
Comprising 2,300-square-feet, this boathouse is located on a small island in Muskoka. Surrounded by a lush landscape of deciduous trees and an expanse of water, this peaceful private getaway features an oversized dock that can accommodate a multitude of uses at once. There's space for an army of children to swim, play and cavort, along with room for adults to lounge, dine or play beer pong with a two-four (that's how Canadians refer to a case of beer containing twenty-four bottles). Because, when it comes to cottage life, Canadians love to hang out on a dock during a Summer's day and watch all of the water sport and boating action (like tubing or water-skiing) happening across their lake - in anticipation of the next inevitable water-skiing or tubing 'wipe out'. And, mark my words, there is nothing more magical than sitting on a dock as a colourful sunset paints the sky vibrant hues of pink, yellow and orange; as the lake becomes still and smooth as glass; and the call of the loons - one of nature’s most hypnotic, mysterious and beautiful sounds - gently reverberates across a body of fresh water. And, when darkness arrives, a cottage dock is always the preferred setting for stargazing the constellations at night, especially in remote locations where the distance from urban light pollution ensures the opportunity to witness the clearest, brightest skies.
According to the architects, the boathouse’s construction includes “a series of planar elements that slide past one another”, which mimics the movement of water shifting course. I love how the firm drew inspiration from the property's lake side setting, and how this design interpretation results in a visually arresting structure. I imagine on sunny days the interplay of light and shadow created by these rhythmic wooden planes cast an ever changing pattern across the deck as the sun traverses the sky. This unexpected element must bring with it delight, as it dynamically connects the building and the landscape with the movement of time.
This ancillary structure to the Main Cottage also serves as guest accommodation, where the upper level comprises 2 bedrooms, a washroom, and a lounge area with kitchenette. The interior has a simple palette of materials, with polished concrete floors and Baltic Birch and Douglas Fir plywood for walls and ceilings. Airy, unadorned, and near monochromatic, the neutrality of the interior ensures the lush textured, layered, natural environment is this setting's focal point.
The generous floor-to-ceiling glazing offers plenty of natural light and unobstructed views of the lake and islands. Considering the abundant windows, as well as the covered deck on this second storey, I imagine taking shelter from a summer thunderstorm offers sufficient protection without diminishing being witness to the power of Mother Nature. Which would be amazing, given I personally love a thunderstorm that cracks the humidity of a hot Summer's day in Ontario.
In addition to the large deck and guest accommodations, the lower level of the boathouse provides three spaces to moor boats and additional storage space for equipment. Garage doors keep the contents safe and secure.
Local cedar was used to construct the boathouse, respecting the vernacular of the region. However, it has its own distinction, charred using a process called Shou Sugi Ban, which protects it from weathering and rot.
Having a cottage retreat is a rite of passage for many Canadians, allowing us to escape the city, decompress amidst nature, engage in outdoor recreation, and bond with family and friends. If you click the hyperlink to Kim Mitchell's "Patio Lanterns" - which is a chart-topping Canadian soundtrack popular in the 1980s - you'll be able to hear a song that resonates deeply in the collective psyche of Canadians ('of a certain age'), as the lyrics capture our love for the simple pleasures that summer brings.
Because boats are an essential addition to cottage life, AKB’s Muskoka Boathouse represents an amped-up version of what many cottage owners desire. With space for up to three water craft, it offers lots of opportunities for water hobbies and sports. Just think of all of the water-skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, or fishing one might do.
I love that this boathouse embraces the environment, while being visually discreet. It doesn't compete with its natural setting, which ultimately is the what cottage life is all about!
For more information about the Muskoka boathouse and AKB’s other projects, visit AKB.
All photos courtesy of Shai Gill.
At Houseporn.ca we love AKB! Here are some of our past posts showcasing this Canadian architectural firm:
Researched and Written by Kara Scerri, Graduate from York University and Sheridan College, Ontario