Sunset Rock House on the edge of the ocean
by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

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This holiday home on the southern coast of Nova Scotia perches on a row of narrow concrete fins just metres from the Atlantic Ocean (+ slideshow).

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

Designed as a holiday home for a couple by Canadian studio MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, the property is situated close to a small fishing village on a plot where a meadow meets the rocky coastline.

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

The clients asked for a sanctuary where they could look out at the sun setting over the sea, and the architects responded by designing the building as a "landscape-viewing instrument, with its side opened to the Atlantic Ocean horizon, and its end a focusing aperture to the sunset."

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

The architects raised the building off the ground "to allow any rogue waves which might crest the granite edge to pass under the house," but left one corner open to the elements to create a terrace overlooking the sea.

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

The exterior is clad in corrugated galvanised aluminium to provide a robust shield against the prevailing weather and the underside of the raised structure is covered in the same marine-grade plywood used in local boat building.

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

A series of broad wooden stairs lead to a covered opening with doors on either side connecting the master bedroom with the rest of the house. Large sliding barn doors can be closed to seal the building during storms.

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

The main living space is located next to the terrace and features glass walls that frame views of the ocean, while clerestory windows above the beds allow the occupants to look up at the sky and a low window provides views from the bathtub.

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

Interior finishes are kept deliberately minimal to focus attention on the views. "When seated in front of the warming hearth, the land between the house and the water’s edge disappears from view, and the plane of the polished grey concrete floor extends to the ever-changing surface of the ocean," said the architects.

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

Photography is by Greg Richardson.

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

Here's a project description from the architects:


Sunset Rock

Place / Landscape

This home is dramatically sited along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, on the southern coast of Nova Scotia, a landscape defined by massive pieces of exposed granite, and the drama of the open ocean. Running parallel to the rugged the shoreline, the house grips the edge fulfilling the owners desire to have as intimate of a connection to the ocean as possible.

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

Its cantilevered end reaches out over Sunset Rock, its namesake and the owners most loved place on their site. Many evenings were spent viewing the spectacular local sunsets from this location, long before the idea of placing a house here was conceived. As a result the house is an extension of the rock, creating a landscape-viewing instrument, with its side opened to the Atlantic Ocean horizon, and its end a focusing aperture to the sunset.

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

Program

Built as a vacation home for a professional couple who fell in love with the local people and pace of life of this small fishing village, it is a retreat from the pace of the major metropolis in which they work. A sanctuary just steps from the ocean, it is a place in which to read, reflect, and write, while living within the remarkable view.

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

On approach, the house appears as a long metal blade marking the transition from meadow to ocean, its monolithic form punctuated by a generous stair leading to the framed view of the ocean horizon provided by the covered entry deck. A series of barn doors allow for the metal skin to be completed, providing protection of the windows from any storms that may come. And as a further consideration to its environment, the house lightly touches the ground, resting on a series of concrete fins perpendicular to the shoreline, engineered to allow any rouge waves which might crest the granite edge to pass under the house.
An asymmetrical bite out of the end of the form creates a sheltered viewing deck from which to enjoy the sunset, while above this an interior loft allows for inhabiting the steel structure, and provides a cocooning space in which to work with focused views along the shoreline.

Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects

The narrow floor plate provides excellent cross ventilation, while generous windows to the view invite the sun in to warm the thermal mass of the concrete floors. The main living area has walls of glass to the view, with no partitions above 8’, allowing for the full expression of the volumes sculptural nature. Body scaled bedboxes open upward without ceilings providing views to the ever-changing day and night sky through clearstory windows. The bathing room again responds to the theme of water, with a long, narrow low window for viewing the ocean waves while seated in the bathtub. The master suite is separated from the public spaces of the house by the covered deck allowing for retreat and privacy.

Floor plan of Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects
Floor plan - click for larger image

Craft / Building / Material

With its grey metal skin the house disappears within the blanket of fog which frequents the site. The durable and economical corrugated galvalume was chosen not only for its minimal beauty, but also to endure the environmental conditions of the houses proximity to the ocean. The underbelly of the house is protected by marine grade plywood, a material used extensively in the local boat building industry. The calm sculptural nature of the house, expressed both in its form and materials, are drawn from the vernacular and ethic of the local buildings used in the commercial fishery. Many of those involved in the building of the home were equally comfortable building a boat for lobster fishing as they are building a house.

Section of Sunset Rock House by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects
Section - click for larger image

The interior pallet is restrained, almost completely white except for the horizontal surfaces of concrete and granite, and the exposed steel structure. This allows the interior surfaces to be of minimal distraction and dissolve into the background as the power and immediacy of the ocean is invited in. When seated in front of the warming hearth, the land between the house and the water’s edge disappears from view, and the plane of the polished grey concrete floor extends to the ever-changing surface of the ocean.

  • mitate

    Good architecture is not only about good design, it’s also about good materials. If hardwoods had been specced and corrugated metal avoided, the building’s image would have been greatly ameliorated.

  • yeahno

    According to Brian McKay-Lyons, the steel girders are there to keep the building from racking. Coastal Nova Scotia experiences driving winds all year round, which has a tendency to cause rudimentary platform framed buildings to collapse upon themselves if not properly reinforced.