Riverhouse is a new single-family home designed by Zerafa Studio llc in Niagara Falls Ontario. The extensive use of Western Red Cedar for decking, wall cladding and soffit cladding was integral to our design, and the inherent flexibility, cost effectiveness and durability of cedar made it the obvious choice for this project, in this location. The relative material richness of the design called for the varied tonality and texture that cedar provides.
The owners, a young couple from the area, recognizing the site’s rich potential, wanted a very modern house whose form was consistent with the site conditions and whose interior spaces had a direct and thoughtful relationship to the river. The principal feature of the 1.85 acre site fronting the Niagara River just upstream from the Horseshoe Falls is the long unobstructed river views across the full 164 ft width of the property. The 4700 sq.ft of interior living space and 1200 sq.ft of covered terrace were crafted to embrace this feature and find a balance between the relative transparency encouraged by the views and the privacy concerns of the owners.
The house is comprised of three distinct horizontal volumes, each with a specific material quality. The building’s north south massing is defined by 2 overlaid rectangular shells within which the glass, cedar and granite clad volumes for the interior living spaces are placed and a series of remaining voids create covered exterior spaces. The shell exteriors are clad in silver metal panel and are mostly opaque to provide privacy from adjacent properties to the north and south. The long open east and west ends of the shells reveal the River and garden views through expansive glazed walls.
The exposed return surfaces of the shells are lined with western red cedar to provide a calm transitional space between the interior and exterior. The cedar deck surface within this space, an extension of the interior floor wraps up onto the wall in the form of t&g siding and returns onto the soffit to define a large exterior wood -clad room open to the surrounding landscape and views. Within this room, the river, house interior and surrounding landscape come together to tell the story of this site.
The ground floor shell projects out to provide a 5’ overhang and floats 3 ft above the ground elevation to accommodate the long horizontal views to the River across the primarily flat site and give the building a delicate footprint in the landscape. The upper level shell is offset from the one below to create an exposed roof terrace to the north and a dramatic 17 ft cantilever to the south. The large cantilevered volume creates a covered entry to the garage area. The third volume clad in charcoal quartzite is a single story shell that slips under to support the cantilever and extends west into the rear garden.
The ground floor is comprised of two primary program groups separated by an east west glazed circulation space that bisects the house and extends the river views through to the rear garden. The service and ancillary spaces, garage, storage, guest suite and access to the basement level area contained within a single-story bar that runs east to west to minimize the obstruction of views. The primary living spaces are distributed in a linear bar across the width of the site to maximize exposure to river views. The home office, kitchen/dining room and double height living room extend the full width of the north south bar to mediate the front and rear gardens and establish a strong visual connection to the outdoors.
The more private spaces including an expansive master suite, two additional bedrooms with ensuite bath and laundry facilities are distributed in a parallel bar on the second floor accessible by a dramatic sculptural stair. The master suite extends the length of the River view façade bridging across the circulation space below and extending out to a large covered terrace.
The kitchen by Bulthaup Toronto features a combination of grey aluminum and kaolin laminate faced cabinetry with the integrated “multi-function” glass wall system.The kitchen counters are engineered quartz and st. stl with integrated sinks and wet areas along with an 8′ long island unit with a walnut veneer slab breakfast bar.
The custom designed “museum” stair was engineered and fabricated locally of steel-reinforced maple and has a furniture-grade walnut finish and structural glass railing.
Location: 11627 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls Ontario, Canada, USA
Architect: ZERAFA Architecture Studio
Architect of Record: Chapman Murray Associates Architects Inc.
Structural Engineer: ACA Engineering
MEP: Hallex Engineering LTD.
Client: Withheld at Owner’s Request
Facility: Private Residence
Project Area: 5000 gsf.
Status: Completed April 2009
Photographer: Tom Arban