The French River cottage is a modernist approach to a rural retreat, located in the French River District, Ontario, designed by Steven Fong, a highly accomplished architect, urban designer, and academic. The location falls within the Canadian Shield County, which offers a complete emersion in nature with its numerous forms of wildlife, a rich history of geology and a plethora of coniferous trees.
His French River home is a bold two-tone shed structure situated by a lake and lush open green space and accompanied by the Canadian Shield's ideal climate of long hot summers. You can bask in the sun, swim and relax within the tranquil rural environment which makes it the quintessential Canadian cottage experience. The building's location both complements and accommodates the surrounding nature while challenging convention on what makes a classic Ontario cottage - for example, it differs greatly to the popular gothic revival style that makes a very large portion of Ontario's cottage scene.
Fong expertly extracts aspects of modernism with a determined focus on privacy, which makes this cottage perfect for its city-based homeowners. The three-hour commute offers the home owners- a young couple, a quick summer get away from Toronto's bright lights and city infused noise.
Fong’s French River cottage is a pastiche to Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (which stands as a symbol of the International Style and one of the first buildings that monumentalized the early modernist ideals).
However, this cottage's notable differences include its materiality and the focus on privacy rather than transparency.
Fong moved away from the extensive use of glass that was popular during the modernist movement of Rohe’s time by incorporating an abundance of locally sourced timber on the exterior facade.
However, the space still holds the modernist values of maximizing circulation and accessibility, with the only fully enclosed space being the washroom. The structure is effectively an open rectangular shed heated by a wood stove, partially divided into a Great Room, a sleeping alcove and a loft accessed by a ladder.
Within Fong's French River Cottage, one can find a successful union between modernist ideals and maximizing the Canadian Shield's natural resources. Fong has been acknowledged and praised for his innovative designs, installations and work in urbanism across the globe. He is definitely an architect to keep an eye out for and one of my personal favorites.
For other articles on modernist cottages, take a look at these awesome posts on Houseporn.ca :
To learn more about their impressive portfolio, visit Steven Fong Architect
Photos courtesy of the Globe and Mail!
Researched and written by Guhar Ullah, Specializing in Architecture at University of Toronto's John H Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design.