Seeking to architecturally balance the functional, the handsome, the efficient, and the economical is not an easy task; but this was the brief provided for the Warburg house. The question posed by the client was simple: can we provide a simple, contemporary, and energy efficient home for less than $100,000?
On a wooded Canadian farmstead, the new house replaces a dwelling that was no longer able to fulfill its function due to build quality and the strains of a working farm. The architectural concept was simple: open, flexible, and efficient.
As an extrusion of an iconic “house-shaped” form, the new house floats 200mm off of the ground. Positioned along a large clearing to the south of the farmyard, the new house opens itself to the southern sun and completes the enclosure of a small meadow to the east.
With an architectural logic of simple elegance, pain-staking efforts were made to preserve the purity of the house’s iconic form. Supported by two steel frames, the simple form creates a singular interior volume. The exterior skin is draped in black corrugated steel sheets long enough to extend the full length of the house. Both the east and west end-walls are punched into the form to create an announcement of entry and provide a small weather break for the entry doors on either side. The opposed entrances offer morning and evening natural light as well as passive cooling in the summer months.
The western façade is a more public stage for the activities of a day-to-day farm life offering vantage points to the extent of the farmyard and is accompanied by a century old log cabin, relocated from within the site as exterior storage. To the east a smaller and more intimate deck protrudes into a small meadow, allowing for a quiet retreat from the demands of the farm. An abstracted pattern relating to regional tree growth is applied to the cedar decking, which continues vertically up the end walls, contrasting the dark exterior form.
The interior volume is simple and minimally detailed. The space is differentiated by two elements: the structural steel frames, and a birch-clad “object”. The object houses all of the functional elements of the house including the kitchen, mechanical equipment, a full bathroom with laundry, and storage for the private area to the east. Windows and skylights are precisely positioned to take full advantage of the natural light from the southern exposure, and are detailed with extruded wooden frames that accentuate their placement and views.
The polished concrete floor contains radiant in-floor heating, while the thick white outer walls are heavily insulated to provide a blanket of protection from the elements. The mechanical system was designed and executed to be of the highest efficiency. This, paired with the higher quality construction processes garnered the house the highest EnerGuide rating possible for a home that is not net-zero. The only way for the home to be more efficient than it is, is to have it generate its own energy.
Both as an individual prototype and as an assemblage of systems, the Warburg house sets a precedent for bioi as well as for Canadian architecture by investigating the role a simple architecture can take. Through an exploration of emergent technologies and innovative construction methodologies, a fundamental step towards a more affordable, efficient, and functional system of residential architecture has been realized.