A boathouse on Balsam Lake – the brief seemed simple enough. A new boathouse at the family cottage for one power boat. “And by the way”, the client would later add, “I don’t want to be able to see it from my cottage”. She craved more reunions with her kids, avid boaters, but wanted to maintain her clear unobstructed lakefront view – an idiosyncratic request that required a novel solution. A bell-shaped underground volume was crafted with industrial steel culverts typically used for train tunnels and mining. Inside, this industrial belly-of-the-whale was softened by a rustic rock wall and a cedar floor gently inclined to allow the water to lap inside, the lake’s ripples dancing on the culverts’ corrugations; outside, the metal structure was slightly exposed by pulling back the concrete rim. Such glimpses of what lies beneath – from the light scoop that protrudes from the grassy hilltop to the boathouse’s hatch-like door in untreated cedar siding – create surprise and delight for both those gliding by on this idyllic Ontario lake, and the owner, who enjoys it year-round. In the summer, she can have a picnic on the hill with a view to the water, and in the winter her grandkids can sled down the other side.
Photos: Michael Awad