Passiv(doppler)haus in Search of the Sublime
zen-blime (adj.): portmanteau of Zen (sanctuary) and Sublime (awe).
** 2022 Canadian Architect Award Winner **
What started more simply as a new family home – one of sanctuary and resilience – evolved into an exploration of zen-blime* tectonics as an architectural paradigm to engage with characteristics of light and materiality, urban infill densification, and massing articulations informed by zoning and programmatic nuances.

Here the essential calming character of Zen evokes the spatial and experiential qualities leading to that feeling of sanctuary so desirable in a turbulent and ever-changing world. Light, materiality, and space – these are the tools to craft a kind of architectural chiaroscuro to escape the busy and loud world. The house presents an opaque façade to the street, through which one steps into a grounded entryway of controlled brightness and earthy materials, before finding the way back up into the light flowing from above and washing down the walls.
Corollary to sanctuary is resilience – the home acts as a buffer both mentally and physically. To that end, it is designed to be Passive House Certified, with specific heat demand at 14.6 kWh/m²a and airtightness 0.6 ACH, triple or quadruple glazed windows and skylights, and efficient electric mechanical systems for both units. Considering the small footprint and duplex typology requiring
double equipment, much effort went into the enclosure design in conjunction with the energy model for sufficient insulation, reduced thermal bridging, and constructability advice from contractors.

As for the Sublime, it is invoked through aesthetic philosophy but reinterpreted to serve as the framework for exploring architectural tectonics as ascribed to fundamental design elements such as light and materiality. On Wikipedia, it is described in grandiose terms: “In aesthetics, the sublime is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual, or
artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement, or imitation”; but distilled and reinterpreted here for architectural simplicity:

Sublime (adj./n.): That which elicits some feeling of awe, expressed via architectural tectonics**

**Tectonics has been described as the art of construction. And art can be defined as part craft and part vision. Thus, tectonics can be thought of as understanding the elements of architecture (light, materiality, massing, etc.) to craft a vision or concept.

The sense of awe comes from observing an architectural phenomenon articulated tectonically in a way that cannot easily be discerned, leading to a sense of mystery and depth. Viewed as a form of art, the craft of creating spatial experiences with massing, light, and materials should be in service of a larger concept or parti. In this case, the striated and interlocked forms speak to the multi-unit typology, which is common in the neighbourhood, but more honestly articulated here. The different materiality of lower vs. upper pulls from the surrounding context, with the base of bricks speaking to typical Toronto housing, while the upper is more expressively composed of wood slats, less common for usual reasons of combustibility, but here they are thermo-treated and class A fire rated.

Project Type: Residential, Single Family Detached with Secondary Suite
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Status: Under Construction, Completion Summer 2023
GFA: 2,238 sqft

Client: Private
Contractor: Evolve Builders Group
Structural Engineer: Passive House One
Mechanical Engineer: ZON Engineering
Passive House Certifier: RDH Building Science
3D Panorama Walkthrough
Instructions: Best viewed on desktop fullscreen. If viewed with a modern mobile device, click on the 'motion sensor' icon to look around the scene by moving the device. Use the 'media strip' thumbnails on the right side to move locations or click on geo pin icons in view. Interior locations have alternate view of 'before' condition in black & white.
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