A Pushover for The Lean-To House By Nova Scotia’s MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

Photograph Courtesy of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

The traditional lean-to, from which the residence derives its name, is a modest free-standing structure with three walls and a single-pitched roof. Composed of logs or unfinished wood this vernacular building was typically an add-on or for temporary shelter, often within a rural setting.

This award winning design Lean-to Home by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, located in Nova Scotia, is far from the ramshackle structure its name conjures. Rather, the stunning retreat is an elegant and meticulously designed home. Reminiscent of the prolific Farnsworth House, or a less extreme version of its progeny Philip Johnson’s Glass House, The Lean-to House acts as a mediator between man and nature; fully immersing the viewer in the outdoors through a subtle blurring of natural and domestic spaces.

Photograph Courtesy of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects pay homage to the lean-to typology not only through its roofline but an expanse of transparent floor to ceiling glass windows spanning the length of the home. The linear quality of the residence, along with its humble form, evokes a strong sense of interconnectedness with the existing topography. Rather than a mere addition to, the residence becomes an integral part of the site on which it is situated.

This treatment renders the boundary between living space and exterior virtually, or at least experientially, nonexistent. The Lean-to House forges an intimate connection with its site, through framed views and an unabashed lack of opaque building material. In addition to expanding the perceived size of the living spaces, extensive views and invisible corners forge an intimate connection between living space and its natural context.

Photographs Courtesy Of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

User-defined spaces and flexible rooms characterize the interior. The long rectangular prism is composed of a sequence of programs unhindered by permanent walls. Rather, partitions and curtains allow unobstructed space to expand and contract, open and close, in response to user needs.

Photograph Courtesy Of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

As you can see above, even the most intimate and vulnerable moments are unabashedly on display to nature! Although it would certainly take some getting used to, no doubt, this elevates and ascribes beauty to even daily tasks.

Photographs Courtesy Of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

The single pitch of the roof creates a sense of opening up and unfolding onto the vista. The simplicity of material and program carries into the interior which defers to opulent views and rich colours of its surroundings. Almost austere when viewed alone, the interior spaces are ascribed warmth and depth of texture through abundant natural light and an ever-changing backdrop afforded by its rugged settings.

Meanwhile, the hearth -at the core of the home- is given a prominent role as it anchors the space in a way the flexible rooms do not. This is also one of the few moments in which the view is directed inwardly rather than outwardly.

Photographs Courtesy Of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

The rooms and furniture are oriented outwards, with strategically framed views directing the occupants’ gaze. Meanwhile a strategically placed brass telescope hints that the focal point of the residence lies beyond, rather than within, the bounds of its walls.

The end result is captivating; a stunning tribute to the Canadian landscape and a response to the oft absent elegance of contemporary residences.

For more, equally inspiring, work visit MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects.

Researched and written by Mikyla [Mika] Futz. Honours Program, Environmental Design. University of British Columbia.

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