Situated at the corner of an intersection in Toronto’s dilapidated Chinatown, Grange Triple Double emerges as a new and unanticipated precedent for multi-unit, multi-generational living in an urban environment.
Construction of the award-winning terraced home, designed by acclaimed Toronto firm Williamson Chong Architects, was completed in 2015.
Built to replace a decaying duplex, Grange Triple Double was commissioned by a young professional couple to house their budding family, which includes a young son, as well as the husband’s parents. The remaining space can accommodate one or potentially two additional rental units.
The project from Williamson Chong Architects proposes a solution to several obstacles posed by Toronto’s rapidly shifting urban fabric. The parents, empty-nesters, were looking to downsize, yet remain in their own neighbourhood. They relish the walkability of the site, and of course, the opportunity to be a part of their grandson’s life. The prospect of being looked after as they age is also a bonus. Meanwhile, the young couple sought a place to raise a family, albeit, in a city rapidly becoming unaffordable to their demographic. With a set of live-in babysitters, paired with the cash flow from the rental unit, the cost became much more reasonable.
Williamson Chong Architects’ project combines both the perks of autonomy and the rewards of proximity, creating a harmonious livable space. While both the young family and the older generation share a private courtyard, each family is also provided with a secluded terrace protected from the bustling street below. Meanwhile, the tenants of the rental unit have the luxury of their own private front yard, enclosed by a hedge. The move to preserve greenspace around the multi-unit dwelling is certainly one of its highlights. Extra sound insulation was an additional feature, provided by the architects to promote privacy.
The house’s heating and ventilation systems can be controlled separately in each of the potential units, and that offers several benefits, which include the following:
1. A sense of autonomy for both families and the potential tenant.
2. An opportunity to save money on heating and cooling bills.
In addition, an operable skylight overlooking a double height living space encourages displacement ventilation from the expansive courtyard windows.
Indeed, the project itself was designed to accommodate passive cooling ventilation. Additionally, the brick façade is composed exclusively of batches of left-over bricks, left unused from previous projects.
Another sustainable feature is the incorporation of extra insulation on the north side of the house, which provides the home with an extra layer of protection during the winter months.
Furthermore, Grange Triple Double is designed for long-term flexibility, as it is equipped to evolve with the changing needs of the multi-generational family. Discreet millwork components can also be adjusted to connect the units.
The Toronto home was designed with the intention of being re-configured at regular intervals, to age with the families and their changing situations in life.
The multi-unit terraced home is an interesting piece, at once modern and innovative, and at once an allusion to the past. Historically multi-generational living was a pervasive trend, prior to the emergence of the nuclear family. Moreover, basement suite rental units are a growing trend in the emerging Canadian metropolises. Williamson Chong Architects proposes an intriguing blend of old and new ideas, while still maintaining a valuable provision of greenspace. Grange Triple Double is a relevant prototype, flexible enough to suit a number of different future scenarios.
In July 2016 the partnership of Williamson Chong, composed of architects Donald Chong, and husband and wife duo Shane and Betsy Williamson, was dissolved. Donald Chong currently leads HDR, Toronto’s new architectural design and research studio. Meanwhile, Betsy Williamson and Shane Williamson continue their partnership as Williamson Williamson Inc. Browse our website to see more projects from the award-winning partnership, including The House in the Frog's Hollow, and The Gallery House. The former collaborators also designed a series of captivatingl features in laminated wood.
All photographs courtesy of Bob Gundu.
All drawings courtesy of Williamson Chong Architects.
This article was researched and written by Sonia Jin, undergraduate student of Environmental Design, University of British Columbia.