On the rocks: Omar Gandhi designs a new house for the Canadian countryside

On the rocks: Omar Gandhi designs a new house for the Canadian countryside

In Nova Scotia, bold architecture tends to cluster along the water. The Atlantic Ocean, which long provided sustenance for this region of Canada, now offers a wealth of views. A new project by the Halifax architect Omar Gandhi, dubbed Float House, takes another point of view, finding the sublime in a rough corner of the landscape and reflecting it back in a set of stunning sculptural forms.

Take an interactive tour of Float House

The 232 sq m building is located ’off the beaten path,’ Gandhi says - half a kilometre inland, in a jagged zone of glacial hills and valleys. Gandhi helped the client Dr. Melanie Kelly select the site, a hilltop clearing which is bracketed by a brawny outcrop of rock. That natural form ’is the most miraculous thing,’ Gandhi recalls. ’It seemed the perfect anchor for a house.’

Where local architects often draw on the vernacular tradition of maritime wooden sheds, Gandhi’s office has twisted this into an unfamiliar shape: the house is a string of four wood-clad forms, but they have been rotated and eroded at the top edges to form jagged, boulder-like volumes. (The word ’float’ is a geological term for loose pieces of rock.)  At one end are Dr. Kelly’s living, dining and bedroom areas; in the middle, two guest bedrooms which houses visits from her grown children; and at the other end, a garage wrapped in a screen of pale spruce siding. This wood, black aluminum windows and a grey metal roof complete the material palette, which blends closely with the topography.

And yet the house - built inexpensively by local contractors - is rich with different spatial experiences. The dining area comes within a few metres of a sheer rock face, which is revealed through large windows. Steps away, the living room looks out over a series of lakes - and the ocean, seen from an angle off in the distance. 

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