A sloping ground plane was a leading influence for this design – inspiring an unconventional, site-specific approach for the placement of elements

Designed by Amantea Architects

From the architect:

This project comprises a fully redesigned front and rear yard of a residential property in Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood. 

The design leverages the natural characteristics of the site to create a sequence of unique, spatially rich moments and a sense of place, while heightening the legibility of the landscape as found.

The owner wanted to preserve elements of the existing yard – notably the mature trees lining the property, which provide seclusion and natural character – while accommodating an extensive program of wellness and entertaining amenities. 

The 380m² rear yard features terraced platforms for dining and lounging, a swimming pool and hot tub, exterior spiral stair, and pavilion. 

Improvements to the front yard include a new garden and modernised entry porch that extends the material palette and language used in the back.

The most significant site feature was the gradually sloping ground plane, dipping nearly 2m from the house to the rear property line. 

This condition was the project’s biggest asset, inspiring an unconventional, site-specific approach for the placement of design elements.

The pool and hot tub, bounded by a limestone privacy wall, are placed directly in front of the entry gate as close to the side lot line as permitted. 

The pool’s length runs parallel to the depth and slope of the yard emerging from the surrounding landscape at its deep end. 

Between the pool and the neighbouring property, a newly planted beech hedge offers additional privacy. 

The pool’s interior-facing side is flanked by a stone dining patio, including a custom outdoor kitchen, and Ipe decks for sunbathing and lounging. 

The change in elevation between each area is managed by an elaborated sequence of stone steps and wide platforms, dispensing with the need for handrails and enhancing the feeling of openness. 

A buffer of high planting inserted between levels provides a degree of containment and separation. 

From the lounge deck, a limestone bridge leads to the landscape’s focal point – a 17m² pavilion set behind the pool and tucked into the back corner of the property. 

The space between the pool wall, pavilion structure and overhead trellis provides a threshold into a more secluded area where one can enjoy a sauna and outdoor shower. 

This moment of spatial compression provides a sense of distance from the more public, open areas of the yard.

The pavilion’s deck structure hovers above grade on a grid of piers to mitigate its impact on the existing vegetation. 

It is clad in black stained Douglas Fir to contrast with the surrounding foliage while visually receding into the background. 

The pool-facing elevation is an assembly of vertical wood battens and translucent glass panels which provides ample daylighting. 

At night, the pavilion transforms into a nearly transparent lantern, casting a warm glow by the pool. 

The cantilevered trellis structure is topped with a planted roof that visually extends the garden to the perimeter vegetation when viewed from above. 

To accommodate flexible use, the design includes sliding panels, pivoting screens and voids in the overhead steel roof frame. 

The sauna doubles as a change room and the interior storage space opens to the surrounding deck, converting the garden-facing side of the pavilion into a fully functioning home gym complete with fold-away equipment. 

Opposite the pavilion, a new sculptural stair wrapped in a ribbon of black metal, provides direct access from the second-floor master deck to the pool-side patio.

This project was conceived out of a modest, yet complex set of design issues. 

Site and programmatic challenges created the opportunity to apply basic place-making principles with a creative exploration of wood assemblies and detailing in mind.

Credit list

Planting plan designer
Bosque Landscape Architecture
Landscape contractors
Aldershot Landscape Contractors; Niet Outdoors
Structural engineer

Designed by: Amantea Architects

Story by: Trendsideas

Photography by: DoubleSpace Photography

26 Mar, 2023

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