A Vertical House In Toronto’s Corktown

Urban centres, like Toronto, are starting to reverse urban sprawl and instead trend construction efforts in a new direction. Rather than the industrial model of expansion that forms more and more 'new' suburban rings around a city, the post-industrial model embraces tackling a city’s growth by directing development vertically.

This vertical growth is especially prevalent in Toronto’s downtown core, where cranes dot the skyline as small parcels of land are rapidly developed into higher and taller buildings.  With over 180 high-rise buildings currently under construction in Toronto, the city's density is intensifying quickly, as the development industry explore more creative ways to utilize small parcels of land.

Julie Dyck and her partner Michael Humphries’ mini-high-rise house in Toronto’s Corktown neighbourhood is just one example of how to realize a big idea on a small plot of land. The couple purchased the 625 square-foot parcel of land (which was originally zoned for commercial purposes) for $50,000 and repurposed the site into an inventive mini high-rise home with the help of their architect friend Drew Hauser of McCallum Sather Architects, a firm based in Hamilton, Ontario.


The dwelling comprises five floors, showcasing how a narrow plot of land can accommodate a unique design solution that serves the homeowners well.

Hauser designed the metal skeleton seen on the corner of the building to satisfy Toronto’s building code, which requires metal structural systems for commercial-zoned sites. The metal skeleton, despite its angularity, contributes to the overall warmth of the building by opening the structure up to the street to engage passersby.



The use of concrete, steel and wood for the house’s stairwell infuses a modern sensibility without detract from the home’s warmth.

The wood used for the stairs is sustainable Canadian Douglas fir, reclaimed from Georgian Bay by the organization Tree Green Team.


With its expansive windows and rooftop atrium, the dwelling is flooded by natural light, where the solar heat gain passively contributes to the house’s eco-friendliness.


The architect was resourceful in creating a comfortable space plan within the confines of a unconventional - and narrow - lot. He also designed lots of storage space to keep this domestic environment clean-lined, efficient yet comfortable.

I like how the continuous use of wood - like those in the kitchen - creates visual-cohesion throughout the interior while contrasting with the home’s white marble and steel structures.


Photographs courtesy of Andrew Snow Photography


With an increasing densification in urban centres, the development profession in cities like Toronto will be required to create more inventive solutions to house people. Hauser’s design here showcases how unconventional lots can may be repurposed into domestic bliss.

You can see more Drew Hauser's work at McCallum Sather Architects.


Researched and Written by Nour Chatti, Undergraduate Student of Human Geography and Urban Studies at the University of Toronto

Posted In: Ontario

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