At first glance, this family home might look like a typical urban infill project—but a closer look reveals that it’s actually a unique and site-specific design. Canadian studio Williamson Chong Architects designed the Bala Line House, a sculptural home in Toronto sited about 60 feet above a disused rail spur and the western edge of a steep ravine. The single-family home draws inspiration from the area’s cascading topography and, despite Toronto’s notoriously humid summers, manages to keep cool naturally without the need for a central air-conditioning system.
Built for a family of five, the Bala Line Home comprises a series of terraced and staggered spaces that step down toward the ravines in the rear. The project was subject to strict standards for physical grade preservation, and so the final ziggurat-like form was crafted to minimize disturbance on the sloped site. The terraced blocks and strategic placement of glazing opens the home up to views, natural light, and natural ventilation, while reinforcing connections with the outdoors.
“The project ‘erodes’ toward the ravine, leaving a light-filled series of upper spaces capturing any natural light and thermally-moderating effects of fresh valley air – most notably in the form of a ‘carved’ front facade and a generous double-cantilever open corner at opposite ends,” write the architects. “As a prototypical gesture to an otherwise neglected urban condition in Toronto, this house architecturally seeks to reclaim the ravine as a worthy, new public realm.” The light-filled three-story home comprises three bedrooms on the upper floors—the master bedroom and ensuite on the top floor, followed by the children’s two bedrooms and bathroom on the second floor—and communal spaces on the ground level.