A dense hardwood forest, comprised of cedar, pine, and oak, surrounds the perimeter of Grand Lake, Nova Scotia. Through the foliage, an elongated barn emerges, hovering above the sandy shores of the lake.
The cottage, designed by renowned Halifax-based architecture firm MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, is supported by a steel aedicule and a board formed entry core. The void created by the raised volume frames the lake beautifully as you approach the shoreline. It was commissioned by a local fisherman’s daughter and her family as a holiday retreat.
Upon its completion, Mirror Point Cottage garnered much praise for its use of energy-efficient measures, and its tribute to the local Maritime vernacular. It is the recipient of the 2016 Record Houses Award and the 2016 Lieutenant Governor’s Citation.
The lakeside cottage takes inspiration from the local architectural traditions, yet maintains ties to modern trends and technology. The cottage takes it distinct form from the ‘Newfie Box,’ a simple square box house, complete with a gabled roof. This building typology is thought to have been derived from the inflow of shipbuilders and fishermen arriving from Newfoundland. Mackay-Lyons Architects extended the cottage to stretch an 80-foot length, creating a more elegant, streamlined appearance.
Mirror Point Cottage is clad in local Eastern white cedar shingles, another nod to the local vernacular. The roof is supported by a series of economical gang-nail trusses, a common enough feature in contemporary North American residential architecture, used to reduce the quantities of structural steel. While the pragmatic wood structural system is typically concealed in houses, at Mirror Point Cottage it is celebrated. The simple structural support system is displayed openly in the interior living space.
The Coastal Maritime communities have a rich tradition of fishing and shipbuilding, which served as another point of inspiration for Mackay-Lyons Architects. The underside of the raised cottage is clad in cedar, evocative of the hull of a ship from bygone days. Other elements on the site, including the gate, a walkway off the master bedroom, and the eastern end of the cottage, are composed of rusted steel, a nod to Maritime shipyards.
MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects designed a sunken outdoor summer kitchen. Located beneath the raised dwelling, the kitchen includes a grill with an attached dining area a couple steps below grade. The sunken kitchen is shaded from the harsh rays of the sun and the winds coming across the lake. Complete with a panoramic view of the lake and forested shoreline, it is the perfect place for summer barbeques and entertainment. Designed with the grandparents in mind, the sunken kitchen provides a sheltered space for the elderly couple to watch over the children as they play in the sand or swim in the lake. The summer kitchen is accompanied by a small board formed concrete bunker, which doubles as a support system for the raised volume, and a guest suite.
The abode is situated strategically in the landscape to maximize the intake on passive solar energy from the south. The elongated form of the cottage is spread across an east-west axis to maximize solar gain. The floors of the cottage employ radiant heating techniques to generate warmth, which helps lower the environmental impact.
At Mirror Point Cottage, Mackay-Lyons created a minimalist cottage along the shoreline of the lake, which blends traditional Maritime language and materials with contemporary craft and technology.
Curious to see more? Here's some of our past posts on Houseporn.ca featuring Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited. Needless to say, we're fans!
All photographs in this post are courtesy of James Brittain
This article was researched and written by Sonia Jin, Bachelor of Environmental Design, University of British Columbia.