Swamp House, Sauble Beach, ON

design for Off-Grid Vacation Residence

S.W.A.M.P. House, the Sustainable Weekend And Multi-Program House, is located on a low lying property on the east side of the Lake Huron shore. The project was conceived of as a hovering luminous construct where the minimization of site impacts achieved through a range of architectonic and technological strategies manifest in an image of these priorities uniquely married with its wetland context. The project consists of two primary volumes: pavilion and tower. The low-slung horizontal pavilion hovers on pilotis above the vegetal flow, permitting the soils of the coastal woodland to continue to filter surface water as it moves towards the lake. Its south face is glazed to frame a long foreground view across the clearing and into the woodlot. Passive solar and daylighting priorities are mediated by a set of advanced glazing treatments, generating a range of performative and phenomenal effects.

One of the main explorations of the design is the maximization of flexibility within a simple arrangement of open spaces. This 2,000sf residence will be capable of accommodating both large and small groups of occupants to meet the demands of current living patterns, and anticipate the inevitable changes that will occur over time. Up to ten over night guests gather in celebration one weekend while the next, a couple will be able to make use of the entire space for relaxation and working. In the event that families emerge, both will be able to share this weekend retreat.

A system of prefabricated assemblies have been designed which will allow erection and close-in to occur rapidly. The structural steel frame of the pavilion will be constructed in its entirety off site and craned into place, whereas the tower will be fabricated as a modular series of components and assembled on site.

Throughout house, breaks in the millwork assemblies, punched apertures and extensive areas of glazing that range from transparent, to reeded to translucent, and form connections to the landscape, the sky, and available light to generate a unique and dynamic experience. Moving through and across the space allows one to occupy the conditions of the clearing, from the wet grassland of the floor, to the canopy above. The neutral interior palette of ash, light stone and plaster allow one’s experience to be characterized by the circumstances of the season and the surrounding landscape, serving to set the artifact of the building in stark contrast to its surroundings, hovering like a luminous sentinel in the landscape.

The tower houses the project’s services at grade, consolidated beneath a stair that accesses an upper loft elevated above the surrounding vegetation, permitting distant views to the horizon. The south face of the tower is clad with photovoltaic film captured within a laminated glass rainscreen, that both screens exterior views and provides energy production.

The interior is conceived of as a millwork infrastructure system that serves multiple functions. The systems either serve to transform space, as in the case of the sleeping modules that incorporate a fold-out bed and room for guest’s belongings, or service the space, as in the hearth and kitchen modules, where devices required to animate the domestic life of the project are housed. Mechanical systems are also located within customized storage cabinets, becoming part of the furniture of the house and permitting easy access for servicing over time.

Typology Off-Grid Vacation Residence
Date 2005-2006
Location Sauble Beach, Ontario
scale 2,000 sf
scope Design Development


Architects Kathy Velikov & Geoffrey Thün


  • Canadian Architect Award of Excellence | 2005


  • Young Architect’s Forum 2008: RESONANCE. Architectural League, New York, NY | May 2008-July 2008
  • rvtr: matters of concern. Cambridge Galleries at Riverside, Cambridge, ON | Oct 2008 - Jan 2009