An abandoned fishing village is the setting for the Smith house at Shobac, where Brian MacKay-Lyons has been designing a new village on the granite bedrock of the old. The 40 or so simple, gable-roofed homes are clustered to leave most of the landscape untouched, and each building reaches back to fishing village vernacular to create courtyard microclimates in this mercurial climate. “This is the spiffiest house we’ve done at Shobac,” Brian says, and it builds, metaphorically, on the geomorphology of the region.

At once local and universal, its minimalist forms have an archetypal timelessness. Visitors arrive at the trio of Corten-draped buildings via the “gatehouse,” which is a sleeping bunker with two single beds, perched on a roadside retaining wall. Swinging around the building, a courtyard leads to broad granite stairs that climb to a stone plinth containing the “day pavilion” and one-bedroom “night pavilion.” “The house is perched on a stone acropolis, like a ruin, protected by Corten steel-plate roofs,” says Brian. “When you get to the front door, you’ve already experienced half of the architecture because it’s about how you arrive. It’s about the landscape; the building is a secondary thing.”

Although the tent-like living space is almost entirely glazed under its white ash plywood ceiling, it is deliberate about views. Window heads are at 7 feet to frame the ocean and surrounding hills, cliffs, and buildings, editing out the sky. At dusk, the water bounces the sunset’s glow up into the space. “It seems like the sunset lasts forever,” the architect says. Anchoring this gathering room is a 28-foot-long freestanding kitchen core and island clad in 2-inch white ash boards, and a 16-foot granite fireplace with a 10-ton mantel stone.

Across the plinth, constructed of local granite, the night pavilion is cave-like by contrast. One winds down into the sunken bedroom like a snail. (An underground hallway provides access from the day pavilion in bad weather.) This minimalist white bedroom steps up along a granite wall to the sky-lit dressing room and a white marble bathroom with a sunset view to the cliffs.

All of these ideas grew out of the house’s location near the Ghost Lab, which began as a translucent tent over a 500-year-old granite ruin that Brian constructed over the years with his students at Dalhousie University. A few years ago he added a sunken “sky space” for dining, which impressed this client. “One morning we sat in the ruin of this granite sky room, and he said, can I have those two things: Corten and granite?”

The Smith house is a stellar example of a building that is both timeless and tied to a place. “You want the building to be of its place, but it belongs to the history of architecture,” Brian says. “If it’s just about the place, it can border on the provincial. If it has a connection to archetypes, fundamental themes in architectural history, then it has currency outside the region because people respond to those things.”

“I see all of our work and practice as one project,” he adds. “The idea of tradition and modernity, local and global, climate and material culture. We’re just trying to get it right each time in a different way.” The judges agreed that he had.


Custom Rural or Vacation House  

Honor Award

MACKAY-LYONS SWEETAPPLE ARCHITECTS
SMITH RESIDENCE
UPPER KINGSBURG, NOVA SCOTIA

Project Credits

ARCHITECT: Brian MacKay-Lyons, Hon. FAIA, principal in charge; Shane Andrews, project architect; Ashley Hannon, Matthew Bishop, Joseph Burkett, Tyler Reynolds, Sawa Rostkowska, project team, MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, Upper Kingsburg, Nova Scotia

BUILDER: Philip Creaser Custom Homes and Woodworking, Riverport, Nova Scotia

INTERIOR DESIGNER: MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Blackwell Structural Engineers, Halifax, Nova Scotia

STONE MASONS: Lange’s Rock Farm, Barrs Corner, Nova Scotia

CUSTOM MILLWORK: Charles Lantz Cabinetry, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

CUSTOM FURNITURE: Amos Wood, Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

SPA CONSULTANTS: Acapulco Pools, Kitchener, Ontario

PROJECT SIZE: 2,775 square feet

SITE SIZE: 2.1 acres

CONSTRUCTION COST: Withheld

PHOTOGRAPHY: Doublespace Photography


Key Products

CLADDING/ROOFING: Russell Metals 11GA weathering steel panels, weathering steel cladding and perforated screens

COOKTOP/OVENS/COOKING VENTILATION/REFRIGERATOR/FREEZER/WASHERS & DRYERS: Miele

COUNTERTOP: Caesarstone

DISHWASHER/MICROWAVE DRAWER: Bosch

ENTRY DOORS: Alumicor 7700 Thermaporte Doors, Aluminum Curtain Wall (day pavilion, night pavilion, and shed man doors)

FIREPLACE: Rumford masonry fireplace (day pavilion); Stûv 30-compact wood stove (shed)

FINISH MATERIALS: White ash plywood, clear, book-matched (day pavilion ceiling); T&G, painted white (night pavilion ceiling)

FOUNDATION: Locally quarried 6″ Nova Scotia granite veneer (foundation and exterior details)

GRILL: Fire Magic Fire Magic Deluxe Legacy Drop-in Grill (outdoor kitchen)

INSULATION/HOUSEWRAP: Halo Exterra GPS

LIGHTING: RC Lighting Slim18Y (entrance exterior); Eureka Megabass (day pavilion, night pavilion, shed); Betacalco Tiros Pendant (kitchen); MatthewMcCormick Line pendant (wine cellar); Sonneman Thin-Line  wall mount (master bathroom and dressing room)

LIGHTING CONTROL SYSTEM: Legrand Adorne

OTHER STRUCTURAL/WEATHERIZATION/BUILDING PERFORMANCE: Marid Industries (steel, primary structure)

PAVERS/RETAINING WALLS: Locally quarried granite pavers

PIZZA OVEN: Fontana Forni

ROOFING: Russell Metals 11GA weathering steel

THERMAL & MOISTURE BARRIERS: Henry Blueskin

WINDOWS: Vitro Architectural Glass Solarban 70XL, aluminum curtain wall; Alumicor 5000 Series phantom vents, aluminum curtain wall; Alumicor TW2200 Series framing, black anodized aluminum, aluminum curtain wall

WINE REFRIGERATOR: Marvel


Images

 

 

 

 

 

 


Plans and Drawings