Built in Toronto's Long Branch neighbourhood, the Tesseract house is a direct response to a city overwhelmed by cookie-cutter construction. Created by Phaedrus Studio, what makes this residence unique is that it was designed without a customer involved (I repeat: no client). This means that the project was not subject to the limitations or guidelines of a client-centric build which granted the design team "carte blanche" to experiment and implement ideas.
Tesseract House is 4-dimensional proof that contemporary design has an audience in Toronto's marketplace, given the property sold shortly after it was listed for sale! A true testament to the idea that "if you build it, [they] will come."
David Grant-Rubash, one of the Principals at PHAEDRUS studio has this to say about The Tesseract House:
"The success of [this] project is its layering of experiences, forms and spaces that reveal themselves over time. This creates a deeper connection and ownership for those that spend the most time within the home. There are few speculative homes in the Canadian real estate market that makes this attempt and fewer that succeed".
Even without a client, the design had its challenges. The long narrow site demanded that PHAEDRUS Studio devise a layout that would allow for air and light to penetrate the deepest parts of the house. This was achieved by strategically placing light wells that bathe the space in light.
PHAEDRUS Studio - like many property redevelopments in the City of Toronto - also had to deal with antiquated zoning laws. They worked hard to strike the right balance between designs that would be immediately approved and those that would require approval from the city authorities. The real challenge being how to keep the design intent alive and maintain the level of quality the team was aiming for, without sacrificing time or budget.
"Even contemporary design can be contextual and local," says the architect.
Tesseract house and its design are indeed a reflection of its urban location. The narrow lot inspired architectural and interior design solutions that capitalize on usable space and natural light, and in doing so, created an efficient floorplan that attracted buyers. But the success of "speculative" housing is not just a matter of design. Toronto's long lucrative and competitive housing market means there has been an audience of consumers seeking well-designed turn-key dwellings.
There has been a considerable transformation in Canada's housing landscape - not only in terms of financing and the economy - but also in the interaction between architects and the environment. The growing popularity of speculative designs shows the importance of developing alternative housing models that push the boundaries in the contemporary market.
Designing place-specific housing means architects are the facilitators of change, and by anticipating the future of a community they can create socially-minded neighbourhoods, flexible spaces to accommodate an ageing population, and incorporate sustainable practices.
And whether their next home design is client-centered or not, Toronto's PHAEDRUS Studio has done a brilliant job reinterpreting traditional programming.
For more information about new projects and custom builds, visit PHAEDRUS Studio.
Photos Courtesy of Ryan Fung.
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Researched and written by Sarah Wright, freelance writer, design enthusiast and constant speculator.