The Courtyard House In Toronto By Studio Junction Inc.

In the warmer climates of Spain, Mexico, and India, the concept of a dwelling surrounding an internal courtyard is common place, but it's highly unusual in Canada where zoning and building codes often restrict our ability to construct our buildings right on the property line. Unless you can secure an existing building that allows you the opportunity to reinvent our domestic setting.

Like the Courtyard House in Toronto, Ontario.


Photograph courtesy of Rob Fiocca


Located at 2087 Davenport Rd in downtown Toronto, Christine Ho Ping Kong and Peter Tan of Studio Junction Inc. designed their first home - called the Courtyard House - in 2009. They found their site back in 2001 on a laneway, which contained a concrete building that served as a contractor’s warehouse with a storage yard. “Here, you don’t have to conform with the facades of the street,” Ho Ping Kong says. And the building itself “was so elemental—a block and an empty space,” Tan says. “It was perfect. We weren’t paying for things we didn’t want to use and we could experiment with all our crazy ideas.”

Experimenting with architecture isn’t easy in dense urban area where residents have strong opinions on how a neighborhood should look. Architects Christine Ho Ping Kong and Peter Tan were able to navigate the neighborhood setting while experimenting with their design because this laneway site is concealed from the public eye.

The idea of “laneway housing” has been practiced by some of Toronto’s most creative architects for decades, who reinvent these unusual opportunities as a means to express their creative selves, create alternative housing forms, and integrate higher density without impacting the urban footprint. Here Ho Ping Kong and Tan took advantage of the chance to design a custom family home by centering their residence internally with a courtyard design we rarely see in Toronto.

The architects rebuilt the warehouse and transformed it into a contemporary home for their family of four and their growing business. The house was one of the first major design 
projects for their firm. “The process,” Ho Ping Kong explains, “was about carving out space to let light in.”


Photograph courtesy of Rob Fiocca


The house opens onto two courtyards that have been sliced out; one at ground level and the other one on the second floor. The daylight from the secondary courtyard illuminates the bathroom, and laundry adjacent to the two bedrooms on the second floor. It also provides sufficient daylight to the office on the ground floor.


Photograph courtesy of Rob Fiocca


The ground floor contains the architects’ office, kitchen, dining, and living room that lead onto the ground floor courtyard. The courtyard separates the house from the studio workshop and creates a communal space. It functions as a kids’ play area and as well as the primary source of natural light.


Photograph courtesy of Rob Fiocca


Having the studio workshop on the other side of the courtyard is a brilliant idea as it receives a great amount of natural daylight from the communal courtyard and its continuous skylight above.

The Courtyard house is largely built by the architect, Tan himself. It took over five years, laboring in the early mornings and late evenings. Tan’s apprenticeship as a woodworker is portrayed throughout the interior of the house. The house is dense with his craftsmanship - from mahogany, Douglas fir, or teak to cedar wrap every surface of the house. Furthermore, the cedar-wrapped windows, built-in furniture, and traditional Japanese joinery truly show Tan’s passion for detailing and woodwork.


Photograph courtesy of Rob Fiocca


The interior appears to be an enormous and intricate piece of cabinetry!


Photograph courtesy of Rob Fiocca


The unusual site, limited budget, and space constraints were the challenges that further evoked the intense creativity and vision of Christine Ho Ping Kong and Peter Tan. Built in furniture, stairs that contain drawers for extra storage, and a flexible barrier between bedrooms to create a semi-private room are the creative solutions to space constraints issue. These flexible designs also unfold the interior like a magic trick.


 Photograph courtesy of Rob Fiocca


Lets focus on the bathroom on the second floor for a moment. There are planters that line the window of the bathroom. The plants thrive with light from the secondary courtyard and moist air from the shower. Japanese shoji style screens allow the light from the courtyard to enter the bathroom and into the hallway.

Watching plants grow and the sunlight peeking in while bathing is truly a luxury!

The Courtyard House is an amazing example of an industrial reclamation project that doesn’t disrupt the fabric of the neighborhood. The idea of letting light in, achieving privacy, and experimenting with architecture takes the laneway space from industrial warehouse to a stunning modern home.

I adore every element of the house. The vines on the facade, the beautiful wood detailing of the interior finishing, and the intimate internal courtyards that provide the warmth of the sun to its inhabitants are lovely!


Here's more sensational work by Studio Junction Inc.


Do you love laneway housing?

Here are some relevant past posts that might interest you:

A Trip Down Canada’s Laneway Housing

Addressing Urban Sprawl With Laneway Housing In Vancouver, BC

Jones Avenue Laneway House by Sustainable.TO

A Toronto Laneway Dwelling By Kohn Shnier Architects


Researched and Written by Ulama Hassan, undergraduate student at OCAD University in the Environmental Design program.

Posted In: Ontario

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