Fraser House

A Sense of Procession

At the Fraser Residence, Canadian Architect Ron Thom found a site as dramatic as one can find in Toronto. Radiating off a quiet cul-de-sac, the property consists of a small table of land running along a ridge overlooking the steep Rosedale Ravine. The house as conceived is beautifully sited along the ridge. The sense of procession from the street into the house is dramatic yet serene.

Thom was used to the rain forest conditions of his native Vancouver. He had hoped that similarly the Toronto Ravine would grow up around the Fraser House, however just the opposite occurred.

Unification and Revitalization

The construction caused severe damage to the Ravine. By 1995 most of the native trees that appeared on the 1965 survey were gone. Few native species remained and the site had been over run by invasive Norwegian Maples and weeds. The house was in an equal state of neglect.

Restoration of the property began in 1996. The objective was to unify the house to its surroundings, to provide a fluid path from the street, through the house and into the Ravine, and to revitalize the grounds and the structure. Starting from the street, the driveway, garage and walkway were completely reconstructed and substantially redesigned. The roof of the house was changed from asphalt shingle to split faced cedar shake. Galvanized flashings were replaced with copper and all of the wood was either refinished or replaced. The creation of a private water garden and patio was of primary importance to the owners. Hidden from the driveway and the neighbouring property by lush vegetation a series of reflecting pools drain into each other. Sunken into the earth and surrounded by low walls the limestone patio wraps around the pools.

Down the side of the house, a grand staircase was created. Two corten steel walls mimic the brick towers of the house and open up to the Ravine like welcoming arms. A path meanders down to the bottom of the Ravine highlighted by various follies. The Ravine itself is undergoing a long term private restoration, the first of it’s kind in Toronto. All one hundred and two of the Norwegian Maples have been cut down or intentionally culled, however not a stick of material has left the property. Wild Mustard, Knotweed and other invasive flowers, plants and trees have been uprooted and today the Ravine flourishes.

A complete ravine restoration of indigenous species, front courtyard, reflecting pools and garden, front walk and benches, side stair to ravine, ramps through to the ravine, footpaths and a bridge.


Altius Project Team Architecture

  • Architecture: Cathy Garrido
  • Architecture: Graham Smith