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2018 MCHAP

Enough House

Brian MacKay-Lyons

Upper Kingsburg, Canada

September 2015


MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited


Renee MacKay-Lyons, Blackwell Structural Engineers (Structural Engineers) Philip Creaser, Philip Creaser Custom Houses & Woodworking (Builder) Talbot Sweetapple, MacKay Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited (Principal, Designer) Tyler Reynolds, MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited (Architect Student Intern) Meggie Kelley, MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited (Architect Intern)


Marilyn MacKay-Lyons


James Brittain Matthew MacKay-Lyons William Green


Enough House is an expression of the ethic of economy, in contrast with the excesses of our current consumer society. The problem of the ‘good generic’ affordable prototype dwelling is more relevant to today’s environmental crisis than the cult of the compelling object, the focus of most contemporary architecture. The light timber frame has become the dominant domestic construction system in North America. Despite its widespread use, its inherent high level of environmental sustainability, its affordability, and its subtle refined aesthetic, architects have been reluctant to embrace it. The research of this practice, however, builds upon and extends this often understated, everyday language of construction, through projects like Enough House. For example, the ‘outsulation’ strategy allows the conventional wood framing system to be expressed on the interior, avoiding the need for interior finishes, and the problems typically associated with condensation in insulated wall cavities. The discipline of listening to ‘place’ (climate, geomorphology, material culture) allows for an understated architecture which gains its power by resonating with its environment.


How much house is enough in terms of both size and craft? This approximately 700 ft² dwelling is the most recent in a series of affordable, modest houses designed by the firm, exploring the idea of ‘economy as ethic’. ‘Enough’ House’s simple form recalls the archetypal image of a child’s house and it was partially inspired by the residence of Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis, where the client played when young. Lewis lived in a simple structure that consisted of a bedroom upstairs and a single room downstairs with a stove, stairs and a window to paint beside. Enough House is similarly restrained in terms of programming, with a living space, kitchen and two bedrooms. ‘Enough’ House is a flexible prototype intended to be replicated and customized to specific sites. Its inherent ‘DNA’ allows this one-bedroom house to easily grow into a two-bedroom, 1,000 ft² family house. It is proto-urban, as it implies aggregation to make urban fabric. Its material expression can be adapted to other cultural contexts. It is rational in its structure and modular in its components. It is a small building that has a big impact.


The first iteration of this prototype serves as accommodation for an intern architect. It acts as a gatehouse. Through its traditional gabled roof form, it communicates with the adjacent 1880s octagonal troop barn and an 1830 Schoolhouse (reconstructed and moved to the site). Due to its pivotal position on the site, it actively engages with all the other adjacent structures by framing courtyards and strengthening micro-climates. It optimizes both prospect and refuge in the landscape. As a landscape viewing instrument it seems to own the pastoral valley to the north and east through a generous 24’ wide corner window. At grade the blank plinth/hearth/stair wall protects the interior from the road, while a 12’ south-facing window above offers solar gain and a dramatic view toward Hirtle’s Beach. Enough House is more a verb than a noun, like an unstable molecule. It is an active agent which engages with its situation. This modernist, kinetic quality is due to its consistent use of the dynamic principle of pin-wheeling composition, in terms of site plan, plan, section and elevation, found throughout the body of work of the firm.

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