Architect Ian MacDonald invites us into his woodland retreat in Ontario

Architect Ian MacDonald invites us into his woodland retreat in Ontario

Few retreats rival the humble wood cabin, in architectural purity, natural beauty and sense of freedom; and this masterpiece, nestled in a forested slope of Canada’s Georgian Bay archipelago is a fine example of the much loved genre. Designed by Toronto architect Ian MacDonald for his own family vacations, this low-slung cabin sits lightly against the region’s rocky islands and white pines.

The architecture takes its cue from the cultural heritage and landscape of the Go Home Bay area in Ontario. While using contemporary language and modern forms, the architect drew heavily on local building techniques and the modest vernacular cottages that dot the area to shape his dream retreat. 

’The new building replaces an old, insubstantial structure that was impossible to restore and upgrade,’ explains MacDonald. ’[The new building] floats over the rock outcrop and carefully defines one’s connection to the landscape and the sequence through which it is experienced.’

Designed with the option to be inhabited all year round if needed, the charcoal-coloured cabin features from large openings that open and connect indoors and outdoors, when the weather allows, to cosy corners - such as a sitting cove, complete with a woodstove - for the colder months. 

The interior is simple and efficient. The view unfolds as the visitors enter the house and pass through the long kitchen that runs through the house, also serving as a corridor. The generous living area on one side is matched by bedrooms on the other end of the long, orthogonal building. Some 42 linear feet of windows frame the bay’s spectacular views. The structure is cantilevered off a concrete base, which creates a sense of floating among the trees. 

Accessed only by water and built in cedar shingles and rough-sawn fir, the structure sits in complete harmony with the nature around it. MacDonald was keen to create a piece of architecture that respects its surrounding natural context. In order to minimise energy wastage during construction, the architect even planned for all the building material to arrive in a single barge. 

The design was also created taking into consideration the local weather patterns in order to improve thermal comfort. An irrigated green roof helps cool down the space underneath. 

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