10 Modern Canadian Houses in Harmony With Their Surroundings

Although Canada is a highly urbanized country, there are also plenty of cabins, retreats and beautiful houses that take advantage of the wild landscape. There are a lot of forests, mountains and tundra regions which have inspired architects to create amazing structures that adapt to their surroundings and bring the outdoors in. Let’s check out some of the ideas and designs that they came up with.

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The Whistler Ski House was designed by the architects at Olson Kundig and is situated in the Coast Mountains, a region defined by a rugged topography and harsh climate. In response to that, the architects elevated the main floor 10 ft above the ground, placing it among the tree canopies and offering it a great view over the surrounding areas. Special precautions had to be taken due to the fact that this is an area with a high seismic risk and the area around it has deep soft soil. As such, the house is supported by a 2 ft thick raft slab which sits on densified soil with several rock columns which extend over 60 ft deep into the ground. That keeps it stable and allows it to make the most of its beautiful surroundings.

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The Saint Donat Cottage was built more than 50 years ago and it was in 2018 that it got a big remodel. It was a project developed by architect Cardin Julien. The goal was to extend the existing structure and to also renovate the interior. The owners wanted to pursue a more energy-efficient design but also wished to preserve the style and charm of the original building as much as possible. In order to achieve that, the architect chose to work with simple and raw materials such as stone, steel, wood and glass throughout the project. The result was a modern cottage that’s as cozy and as inviting as the original.

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The Smith House is a very special project by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects. Located on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia, in an area that once used to have a fishing port, the house serves as a vacation home and is one of several structures that occupy the old fishing village area. The structures closely interact with each other and there are multiple courtyards between them which creates a sense of community. The Smith House has a very interesting design with a stone base that transitions into Corten steel walls and roofs. The base is made of locally-sourced granite which was also used for the other structures in the surrounding area.

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The New House project was completed in 2017 by studio Sturgess Architecture. It consists of a modern residence designed to adapt to its immediate surroundings and to fit within the context of the neighboring structures. It has four neighbors to the west and rather than separating them with a big solid wall the architects chose to connect their courtyards in a natural manner. Each courtyard maintains its integrity and privacy while at the same time serving as an extension for the other adjacent spaces. The house itself is raised at a 1.5m height to match the flood retaining wall in accordance to the typical conditions of this beautiful riverfront property.

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Another beautiful example of architecture coexisting with the beautiful Canadian landscape is the Sooke 01 House which was designed by Campos Studio. It occupies a small clearing among the trees between the ocean and the mountains. It was actually the landscape that shaped the house in a lot of ways. In particular, it was the rocky knoll at the top of the site that stands out, being the perfect spot for admiring the views. It thus became a part of the house. The building is organized around a concrete column that mimics a tree trunk and has a very diversified floor plan which frames views of the beautiful surroundings on all sides.

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The name of this project makes perfect sense once you have a look at it. This is a seaside family retreat designed and built by studio Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects which sits not on the shore but high up on a slope, bridging between two rocky outcrops, hence the name Bridge House. From up here it gets to frame a series of panoramic views over the sea and also gets to interact with the landscape around it in a really cool way. It has a variety of different outdoor areas such as open and covered decks, balconies and a screened porch and they’re all aimed at bringing the indoor and the outdoor closer together.

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The Big Rideau Lakehouse is a lovely four-season cottage designed by Christopher Simmonds Architect. It blends with the charming rural surroundings but at the same time it maintains a very clean and modern aesthetic. It’s a cottage but with a twist. The gable roof and chimney definitely give it a very homely look while the grey exterior and large windows and openings add a breezy and open feel to the overall design. One of the main requirements from the client was for a large screen porch which can now be easily accessed from the indoor living area. The house is surrounded by lush greenery and trees which contrast with its neutral and simple aesthetic, creating a harmonious connection between architecture and nature.

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After searching for some time for a suitable site that would allow their plans to be materialized, the clients together with studio Sturgess Architecture settled on a 2.5 acre piece of land on the Naratama beach. Here they planned to create a small vineyard and to build a vacation house which would take advantage of the view. The difficult topography didn’t make things easy. The vineyard occupies the upper part of the site defined by a shallow slope. The lower section extends into a deep gorge and that’s where the architects planned to build the house. The building extends over the gorge and offers amazing views of the area below.

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This is yet another modern Canadian house which takes advantage of the rugged landscape around it in a very clever and interesting way. This was a project by studio Bourgeois / Lechasseur architectes which was completed in 2019. The house occupies a plateau framed by a forested hillside on one side and a steep slope on the other. The clients wanted their new house to be a modern interpretation of rustic barn-style homes. In that regard, the architects opted for a more traditional approach with a simple and elongated floor plan. They then included lots of large windows and various other elements into the design which are aimed at adding a contemporary twist to the project. This is the final result.

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The main objective when designing this beautiful retreat was, like in lots of other cases, to bridge the gap between architecture and nature. This was a project completed in 2017 by studio ESPACE VITAL architecture. The house has a balanced ratio of solid and open areas and also a cool-looking exterior which alternated between concrete and Corten-clad surfaces. Rather than terraforming the immediate surroundings and creating flat surfaces, the architects made the transition as natural and organic as possible and used the unique landscape in their favor.