House on Bala Line

Within many of Toronto’s network of well-preserved ravines and valleys, historic rail lines are occasionally found nestled unused on steep, wooded slopes between the upper plateau of residential fabric and the river valley habitats down below. The now de-commissioned Bala Line rail – once used for an industry-focused early 20th-century city – has evolved into a common passage for hikers and neighbours alike. This project is a single-family dwelling with a rare, accessible lot lining this western edge of the ravine, some 60 feet above the mid-slope Bala Line path.

The home for a family of five integrates a series of terraced spaces strung together by a 14′ flight-and-a-half stair, coinciding with the cascading topography beyond. Using a single-run stair to offset primary spaces at key landing points, the project frames views of the valley below. Ostensible ‘pressures’ of limiting-distance minimum unprotected openings, neighbouring heights, and physical grade preservation (for stable soil structure and integrity), together offered an opportunity for a monolithic, though stepped, mass nesting atop a grounded poured-in-place concrete structure. The project ‘erodes’ toward the ravine, leaving a light-filled series of upper spaces capturing any natural light and thermally-moderating effects of fresh valley air – most notably in the form of a ‘carved’ front facade and a generous double-cantilever open corner at opposite ends. As a prototypical gesture to an otherwise neglected urban condition in Toronto, this house architecturally seeks to reclaim the ravine as a worthy, new public realm.

This project is a single-family dwelling with a rare, accessible lot lining this western edge of the ravine, some 60 feet above the de-commissioned Bala Line rail – once used for an industry-focused early 20th-century city – which has now evolved into a common passage for hikers and neighbours alike.

A project completed by Williamson Chong

Project News

Catálogodiseño Magazine Publishes the House on Bala Line

“Among the many well preserved valleys surrounding Toronto, Canada, it is not unusual to see disused railway lines that coexist with suburban residential fabric. It is in this scenario where the Canadian office of Williamson Chong Architects installed the House on Bala Line , a house that runs 18 mt above the line of the old railway line “Bullet Line” which ran early twentieth century….”

Gracias Catálogodiseño!

International Architecture & Design features the Bala Line House

Alex Bozikovic, "Natural State", International Architecture & Design, Spring 2015, P. 46-51.

“The breeze flowing over your table as you’re sitting down to dinner on a summer evening,” the owner says, is one of the best experiences they’ve had in the house: “There are those magical moments when you feel you’re connected to the place.” When nature provides you with magic, sometimes the wisest course is to let it flow.

Alex Bozikovic elegantly describes the spaces, systems, and details in the Bala Line house. It is nice when our urban projects feel so connected to Toronto’s great natural resources.

Bala Line House graces the cover of Canadian Architect

Leslie Jen, "All Lined Up," Canadian Architect, June 2014, V. 59 N. 06, p. 22-26.

“One of the most striking features of the house is the sliding east window wall at the rear of the house, which blurs the distinction between interior and exterior space. This absence of boundary is further enhanced by the wraparound condition at the corner, where the north wall of glass also pulls away, creating a completely eroded corner that captures even more expansive views of landscape and sky. On the day of my visit, the children were running and jumping between the backyard and living room, moving effortlessly in and out of the two spaces as if they were one.”

Leslie Jen writes a compelling description of the Bala Line house in Toronto, highlighting the integration of the house and the site.

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