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Nestled in the side streets of Windsor Ontario near Lake St. Clair, a Scandinavian-influenced trio of volumes stands in stark contrast to their neighbours. The ‘J’ Residence is the work of Dory Azar Architect Inc., and it exemplifies the firm’s philosophy of wrapping a home around the clients’ lifestyle. An intuitive and bold last-minute decision by the owners changed the trajectory of the design for the better, and saved their home from mundanity.
The clients initially reached out to Dory Azar Architect Inc. because they wanted a fresh perspective on a previous design concept, done by another designer. They had already obtained a building permit, but they were getting cold feet about moving forward with the build. Toward the end of the meeting, the clients turned to the architect and asked “Can we show you what we REALLY want?”. The architect obliged, and the clients proceeded to share images of Scandinavian-style architecture, explaining how they identified with and appreciated the simple forms, clean lines, and modern aesthetic. The architect enthusiastically agreed, and the clients decided at that moment to abandon their original plan, thus beginning the process of pursuing a new design that is better aligned with their tastes and values.
The challenges associated with the design began with the site itself. The property lies within the 100-year flood plain, as identified by the local conservation authority. As such, the clients were very concerned about the risk of flooding. The design team worked with the conservation authority to establish a safe elevation at which to build the home. As a further precaution, slab-on-grade construction was implemented to eliminate a basement or crawlspace, both of which are common building practices in the region.
The space planning for the residence was a response to very specific client desires. First, the three volumes were established to encompass their unique uses. The first volume contains the private areas (i.e., bedrooms and bathrooms). The second contains the entertaining and gathering spaces (i.e., kitchen, living, and dining areas), and the third contains the garage and storage areas. Once these uses were established, the orientations of the volumes were manipulated to ensure proper adjacencies and flow. They were further refined to maintain or limit particular views and physical connections between the interior and exterior of the home.
The axis of the private wing of the house is a single loaded corridor that separates the bedrooms and recreational room from the outdoors, providing a visual buffer from the main approach to the home. The corridor terminates with a modest outdoor patio, which the clients use for reading, drawing, and the occasional impromptu musical performance. The livable volumes are long and thin to allow for an abundance of natural light, and the polished concrete floors and light interior colour palette allow the spaces to feel brighter and more open.
The construction methods are vernacular and include standard wood framing, polished concrete floors, and custom millwork. The exterior finishes include vertical white cedar siding and standing seam metal roofs. The end result is an exercise in scale and simplicity which stays true to the architect’s philosophy of wrapping a home around a client’s lifestyle for a holistic and client appropriate response.