Gradient House


Deep in the heart of Toronto’s Kensington Market, this laneway house is distinguished by its monochromatic robust form, and a sculptural interior awash with light. Dense and tightly packed, Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s most vibrant and distinct pedestrian-scaled neighbourhoods. Comprised of an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and houses, its unique flavour, sidewalk stalls and street festivals are a major draw for both residents and visitors.

Designed with its neighbourhood in mind and tracing the footprint of the existing house it replaces, this archetypal house is sited on an unconventional L-shaped lot, tucked away from the street. Referencing the original house, the elemental form features a slightly steeper roof pitch and the addition of dormer windows. Here, the dormers are oversized and project from the sloping roof; deeply recessed glazing ensures a greater degree of privacy on this small interior lot.

Inside, geometrically sculpted white ceiling planes result from the second floor “dropping” into the first floor, creating 11.5-foot-high cathedral ceilings that flank two sides of the open plan. This, coupled with the angles of the sloping roof and the provision of skylights, creates an intricate composition of solid and void, light and shadow. Outside, dove grey cement-board cladding and corrugated steel roofing unify the exterior as a single monochromatic form, and the square plan is echoed by the graphic arrangement of square windows that adorn the front, back and side.

A predominantly white interior provides a serene backdrop for glimpses of the neighbourhood and city beyond. Light filters into the space from east and west through large openings and skylights, which allow for cross-ventilation and views through the ground-floor space. Further integration with the site is achieved through small gardens in front and back of the house, extending the modest living space to the outdoors. The house achieves a volume and generosity of space that belies its small footprint and the economy of means with which it was built, ultimately accomplishing a strategic sustainability on this unusual infill lot.

photo: Shai Gil / Naomi Finlay