Kennisis Lake

Architectural origami

The clients’ desire for a sculptural form that is highly tuned to the nuances of their site, as well as their specific programmatic needs was the driving force of the residence’s organic architecture. The collection of voluminous gathering spaces and intimate, private spaces are pulled together under a series of folding roof planes that float up and down over the contours of the site. A rich interaction of interior spaces are achieved through subtle and dramatic level changes, overlook, millwork and screens. The relationship of those interior spaces to exterior living space, views, site topography and solar orientation adds another layer of complexity to the architecture.

Natural stone wood burning fireplaces playing against the soaring exposed heavy timber structure to recall the cottage traditions of Ontario.

The folding, wing-like roofs planes are stretched out over a heavy timber skeleton appearing to hover over the rock, lifted by breezes off the lake. These series of roofs are pinned down to the site by the mass of three stone fireplaces. The organic architecture, often primordial in nature, recalls the history of site and the rituals and traditions of cottaging in Ontario.

The complex and expansive building program was derived from the clients’ desire to create a place where an extended family living in different countries can gather together, generation after generation. Separate intimate spaces accommodating multiple families are connected by voluminous gathering spaces, providing challenges and opportunities for acoustic and visual relationships between spaces. A series of stepped terraces extend the building seamlessly into the landscape and provide outdoor gathering amenities. A traditional Argentinean parrilla barbeque and fireplace is the focal point of the outdoor living, dining and kitchen spaces.



Natural materials and locally sourced products such as granite, heavy timber, cedar shingles and wood siding allows the structure to appear like it had grown out of, and belongs to the forest and rock that it hovers over. These materials and finishes are also chosen for their renewable and recyclable properties as well as their low-embodied energy to minimize the building’s environmental footprint.

A well-considered solar orientation, high transom and clerestory windows wash the interior with ample natural day-lighting. Large roof overhangs provide excellent summertime shading to large expanses of thermal glazing – ideal for passive solar heating in the winter. The thermal mass in the concrete slab-on-grade construction, as well as the stone fireplaces mediate the temperature changes from day to night.

The building’s heating is delivered by a geothermal lake-loop powering an in-floor radiant system in the winter. The system is reversed to cool the building in the hot weather. In addition, a passive cooling strategy takes advantage of the natural breezes off the lake to cross-ventilate, and by creating opportunities for stack-effect with high south-facing clerestory windows, air is drawn through the building on still days.

Insulated concrete forms prevent wasted form lumber for the slab-on-grade foundations, and R40 walls and roof construction minimize heat-losses, taking full advantage of high-performance materials and methods in building envelope design currently available.

Sustainability Features

  • Program and Spatial Optimization
  • Integration with the ‘Natural Assets’ of your Site and Terrain
  • Site Specific View and Vista Optimization
  • Passive Solar Heating
  • Natural Ventilation and Passive Cooling
  • Natural Daylighting
  • High Performance Envelope Design
  • Renewable Materials and Finishes
  • Reclaimed and Recycled Materials
  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and Non-toxic Materials and Finishes
  • Advanced Geothermal Systems
  • Radiant Heating
  • Heat Recovery Ventilation
  • Low Energy Lighting & Appliances
  • Water Conserving Appliances & Fixtures

Altius Project Team Architecture

  • Construction Management: Morris Ortolan
  • Trevor McIvor

Project Partners

  • Construction: Orchard Contracting - Bracebridge
  • Engineering: CUCCO engineering + design - Toronto