Boat House – The art of Retreating
A quiet but profound addition has been made to Ontario’s Georgian Bay. On one of the many islands dotting the water’s northeastern shore, a private boathouse and docking facility now sits, a careful composition of modern design elements that promise not to overwhelm the serene environment in which it was built.
Designed for an active family, Boat House is a perfectly packaged centre for summer enjoyment — simple so as not to distract from the surrounding landscape, but elegant and never lacking.
Created by Kevin Weiss of Weiss Architecture & Urbanism Limited — a winner of Winnipeg’s Warming Huts international design competition this past February — the structure consists of a large cedar dock, which boasts a storage building for kayaks, canoes and windsurfing equipment, a food servery, linear shade canopies and a covered pavilion with seating.
Boat House awakens a new style of home without shouting too loud: crisp yet soft lines, innovative forms and rustic materials like a douglas fir building structure, black-stained resawn cedar cladding, galvanized steel and tern-coated copper, all manifest in an architectural symphony that causes barely a ripple in the bay’s waters. Sturdily built and beautifully composed, the project not only pays respect to, but also complements the nature and culture of its surroundings.
As Weiss puts it, this design intended to retreat from the trend of “bigger, better, more” that’s become so popular in cottage design, which often takes away from the landscape.
“This spirit of architecture seemed to be appropriate for the culture of Georgian Bay,” says Weiss. “While the architecture of the nearby Muskoka area tends to be more pronounced, cottages of this part of Georgian Bay historically tended to be more humble and secondary to the magnificent landscape of smooth, weathered granite and contorted jack pines. This is the landscape of the Group of Seven, after all.”
This is a novel production for Weiss Architecture & Urbanism Limited, whose usual stomping ground isn’t cottage country, but in urban communities in Canada and around the world. Having completed projects like Lennox-Addington Hall at the University of Guelph, Regis College at the University of Toronto, Temple Kol Ami in Thornhill and a series of custom homes, Boat House allows the design hub to leave its elegant signature in an unexpected pocket of Canada, far from the fluorescence, traffic and buzz of the big cities, Weiss’s usual canvas.
“I very much appreciate the quietness of the design,” says Weiss. “It was always meant to be about the landscape and the enhanced enjoyment of the place. It is very successful in that regard.”
PHOTOS BY ARNAUD MARTHOURET