Toronto’s coolest architecture: A laneway house that embodies efficiency

Toronto is full of cool architecture, like New City Hall and Brookfield Place. But what about architecture for regular, residential buildings, especially for renters? These feats of modern and practical architecture don’t get a ton of fame and recognition in the press, but are certainly worthy of both.

Check out this super cool laneway house, built at 40R Shaftesbury Ave. in Rosedale and designed by architects Margaret Graham and Andre D’Elia of superkul. The exterior is clad in rusted metal panels and crams 900 square feet of living space into two-and-a-half storeys, packed intelligently and efficiently into a tiny space of just 720 square feet, behind a home on the same lot.

In such a tight area, the architects had to be clever about how to get natural light into the laneway house and since windows in the walls wouldn’t allow that to happen, they maximized the amount of light coming in from the top.

It has a rooftop garden and a courtyard on the second floor, all of which help with passive cooling for the house and help deliver natural light to the interior.

Those rusty metal panels on the exterior are native to the structure and were catalogued before being reinstalled. It was, in a former life, a blacksmith’s shop, then a horse shed and an artist’s loft before becoming a residence in 2006.

It was one of few projects to win an Award of Excellence from the Toronto Urban Design Awards in 2009 for debunking “the myth that you cannot provide a single-family home in a dense urban space” (source: The Globe and Mail) during a year when the jury saw a minimal number of impressive and award-worthy projects.

Born on the Prairies, Erin Cardone grew up knowing there was more to life than canola fields and AAA Alberta Angus. So she escaped, living in Europe and Australia, white-knuckling it through plates of calf brains and raw horse meat, and learning languages she can't remember anymore. After a stint as a jaded, skeptical journalist, she changed tack and began writing rather awesome blogs and showing businesses that advertising is dead, so long live social media, with her businesses Legendary Social Media. She now splits her time between various Canadian cities, Costa Rica and wherever else the wind blows.

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