Superkül - Birdhouse, a refuge inspired by nesting cavities
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Birdhouse, a refuge inspired by nesting cavities


Villa  /  Completed

Birdhouse is a marriage of quiet contrasts between nature and built form, verticality and horizontality, exterior and interior. Early in the design process, we discovered an unexpected source of inspiration: several trees on the property featured birdhouses left behind by previous owners. These nesting cavities – simple in shape and purpose – informed the architectural objectives: to create a refuge for spiritual nourishment and social connection, forthright in form and function, that communicates directly with nature while protecting from the elements.

The home comes into view through a procession of trees, many of which have been denuded at their base by deer. Offering clear sightlines through an otherwise dense copse, the arboreal landscape is central to the overall architectural choreography, working to both conceal and reveal. The windswept property offers extraordinary views and lake proximity; however, working from the existing footprint posed challenges related to weather mitigation and achieving the desired program. Leveraging the topography, we evolved a resilient design – and oversaw a complex construction process – that inserted a compact, two-storey cottage into the Precambrian outcropping, enabling us to optimize the home’s layout and ability to provide shelter on a blustery site.

Clad in local cedar charred using the Shou Sugi Ban method, a weather-proofing technique that prevents decay, Birdhouse primarily features natural and durable materials. Operable triple-glazed windows and skylights bring in daylight, provide excellent insulation, and enable powerful passive and cross-ventilation. Lake-facing windows can open to take advantage of wind patterns while skylights create a stack effect, drawing air up through the double-height space. The compact form maximizes surface-area-to-volume ratio, minimizing heat loss and gain; the high-performance envelope reduces energy usage. Zoned mechanical and in-floor radiant heating systems, combined with the thermal mass of the concrete floor, promote targeted temperature control, supplementing the passive ventilation strategy.

Perched on the Canadian Shield, Birdhouse aspires to a purity of form whose power lies in flawless proportions, monochromatic materials, and exquisite modesty. Inspired by the birdhouses our clients discovered on the property, the pitched-roof design is forthright in form and function and a sanctuary for communing with family, friends, and nature. As the receding structure steps down from the driveway at grade to reveal a lower lake level, the exterior finish correspondingly segues from charred cedar to a unique board-formed concrete manufactured locally using richly textured rough-sawn lumber. Inside, the white oak millwork, which soars across the double-height space, unfolds seamlessly and sculpturally across the interiors, belying the complex planning and detailing that was required to achieve this clean, continuous effect. Executing the “disappearing act” of minimalist design while optimizing functionality and sustainability was one of the greatest challenges and achievements of the project. We collaborated closely with the contractor as well as local millworkers, fabricators, metalworkers, and electricians, all of whom deployed advanced techniques to execute sophisticated craftsmanship. The result is an exquisitely detailed home in which every vent and grill placement was considered to deliver a hyper-functional experience while preserving the formal integrity of the design.

“Superkül helped us design our ideal space, based on the natural topography of the landscape. Birdhouse allows us to immerse ourselves in nature and its tranquility and to escape and rejuvenate, with as many of our closest family and friends as we can gather. We could not have achieved this without Superkül’s thoughtful collaboration and expertise.” — Birdhouse clients


 274 mq
 Meg Graham, Will Elsworthy, Wendy Wisbrun, Deborah Wang
 Brinkman Construction
 Blackwell (Structural Engineer), Bowser Technical (Mechanical Engineer)
 Endeman's Iron Craft (Metalwork), Mill Line Woodworking (Millwork), Ell-Rod (Millwork), Moncer (Flooring)
 doublespace photography


Superkül delivers eloquent architecture of enduring value, prioritizing fluidity, functionality, and sustainability to create luminous and vitalizing spaces. With every project, our objective is always to find ways to do more with less. Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. Design for the present while anticipating the future.

Co-led by partners Meg Graham and Andre D’Elia, our firm boasts a diverse portfolio of work notable for sophisticated yet simple design that responds to landscape, site, and program. With every project, regardless of magnitude, we are known for balancing a scrupulous attention to detail, light, and clean craftsmanship with purposeful connections to the larger built and natural contexts.

Dedicated to sustainable design, we deploy the most current material, technological, and construction solutions. We find inspiration in working with like-minded clients and collaborators to build a more resilient, responsible, and resplendent world.

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