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Amantea Architects modernizes a rich and casual urban residential landscape with a Mondrianesque composition of carefully programmed spaces.
The landscape of a single-family home in the city’s Forest Hill neighbourhood has been transformed by Amantea Architects of Toronto. The Architects have simplified the progam while maintaing its lush and layered character. This design project comprises an entirely redesigned backyard including patio, dining terrace, swimming pool, sport lawn and pavilion- all efficiently programmed within a 560 sq.m. space, as well as a new front garden and entryway.
The exterior project began with Amantea’s association on an extensive renovation of the primary residence, led by Toronto firm Reigo & Bauer. The client chose to preserve elements of the existing landscape—notably the mature trees along the rear garden, which add to the backyard’s leafy seclusion—while extending the material palette and language of the house’s now-modern interior.
The landscape’s focal point is a new 47-square-metre pavilion spanning approximately the entire width of the backyard and advanced as close to the rear property line as permitted. Hovering above native grade on piers to alleviate its impact on the adjacent trees, the pavilion’s linear form is configured to preserve the prevailing vegetation. Clad in black to contrast with the surrounding foliage while visually receding into the background, the pavilion functions like a screen, creating the illusion of boundless space beyond. The house-facing elevation is an assembly of vertical cedar battens that gradually progress from wide and shallow at the building’s ends, which house storage and mechanical, to narrower, deeper and more broadly spaced at its centre. The resulting moiré-like effect is specially striking at night when the pavilion is lit up like a lantern, with warm light filtering through its screen and full-height translucent glass walls.
These glass panels admit ample daylight, reducing the need for artificial lighting while still providing visual separation; after dark, daylight is supplemented with tunable LEDs integrated into the ceiling. The pavilion’s core, finished with a warm and natural palette of marine-grade ply with cedar veneer and oiled cedar boards, is turned over to a washroom, a change room and a shower next to an opening in the roof that frames a birch tree and a view of the sky—zones deftly partitioned yet open to the surrounding landscape and pool activity.
Ipe flooring from the interior of the pavilion, connects to the oiled ipe decks that frame the swimming pool. Mirroring the pavilion’s geometry, the new rectangular pool is lined with Algonquin limestone that extends horizontally on one side to serve as a deck wide enough for lounge chairs; nearest the house, the same limestone serves as a bridge to the dining terrace. The remaining sides of the pool are surrounded by decks of oiled ipe that sit flush with the level of the lawn. The use of continuous walking surfaces throughout the backyard merge the pavilion with its setting—an effect enhanced by a planted roof that visually extends the lawn to the perimeter vegetation when viewed from above.
Opposite the pavilion, the new dining terrace replaces an existing balcony-like platform framed by a masonry wall and accessed by a narrow set of eight stone steps; now, an extended sequence of wide platforms elaborates the transition from ipe dining terrace to limestone patio below, dispensing with the need for a guardrail and intensifying the feeling of openness. Raised to match the level of the main floor interior, the new enlarged terrace also consists of a generous custom barbecue station set against horizontal black-stained cedar lath with a powder-coated aluminum heat guard.
From dining terrace to pool, the elevation difference is managed by a berm—sandwiched between two low limestone retainers, further subdivided by black aluminum planters and thickly foliated to negotiate its steep descent—inserting a middle-ground to create a sense of distance between pool and terrace. Here and elsewhere, plantings (selected in collaboration with Tina McMullen) are structured for a modern look that nonetheless maintains the loose, shaggy feel of the original garden.
In the front yard, Amantea updated an existing horseshoe driveway and intersecting front walk with new heated surfaces of concrete and limestone. The entrance, too, is revamped, with a new square stoop, orthogonal limestone bench and corresponding planting box framed in blackened metal; here, as in the areas abutting the front walk, a carefully proportioned composition of shrubs and low plantings replaces turf.