Glass Boathouse

Property type: House


A one-of-a-kind location so cinematic it could inspire filmmakers to pen scripts starring the Glass Boathouse as a lead character. This unique structure, with its 16-ft ceilings, 8 ft-high sliding windows, and motorized curtains, was designed for photography, using both professional lighting and available light. The transparent ferrous-free (no colour) glass walls allow for a continuous and undiminished natural light, creating stunning light not achievable in traditional studios.

A photographer’s studio over a boathouse on a lake in the Kawarthas, a two-hour drive from Toronto, is inspired by the landscape of the Canadian Shield. Interior and exterior unity and sustainability were a driving force for this modern glass box, a refreshing departure from the more traditional stone and wood palette of its neighbours.

The studio sits at the water’s edge on a granite plinth, suspended like a lantern on the site. The exterior facade, a transparent curtain wall glazed in low-iron glass, ensures a stream of continuous and undiminished natural light and allows for the production of photographs unobtainable in a conventional studio.

Minimalistic furnishings, including the occasional art exhibition, serve as accents, never distracting from or upstaging the surroundings, yet interesting in their own right.

The gas fireplace, in keeping with the subtle furnishings is designed as much for effect and atmosphere as necessity. The foundation granite’s thermal mass facilitates solar input, eliminating the need for excessive heating systems.

The use of a deep-water exchange from the lake heats and cools the building year-round through the use of radiant slabs and recessed perimeter louvers on the floor and ceiling. Sliding glass panes make the studio porous for natural ventilation, and an automated blind system, white roof, and deciduous hedgerow guard against excessive solar gain.

A lightweight, aluminum curvilnear structure (the pod) guarded by low-iron glass has been installed at level with the studio. Designed with a contrapuntal intention to the orthogonal discipline of the studio, the second project has an organic shape that is representative of nature.

The pod is meant to claim flat land on a site where there is none. It also serves as an outdoor photographer’s tripod and social platform for entertainment and relaxation.

Boats can dock at the aluminum wharf and there is parking for trucks. A nearby lodge and restaurants provide accommodation and supplies.

The bedroom, bathroom and kitchen are are accessed by a simple, inconspicuous staircase.

The bedroom, bathroom and kitchen are concealed above the glassed area and overlook the main floor.

To accommodate a small footprint, domestic functions are integrated and suspended above the main space. The bedroom, bathroom and closet are coextensive, and sliding, fritted glass allows for them to be concealed from the rest of the space. The continuous blind system transforms the interior into an enclosed, intimate space, and the exterior into a gently reflective mirror of the surroundings.