14th October 2013

How do you build a house on a lake, and one where the water levels vary dramatically from month-to-month and year-to-year? Floating House is the answer to this question, and was designed by architects Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample of MOS Architects.

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The location is an island on Lake Huron, which is the second largest of the Great Lakes. When the owners, a Cincinnati couple who have long vacationed in this part of Ontario, bought the three acre rocky island, it was home to two run-down cottages and a two-storey boathouse. The architects proposed a series of buildings for the site: a main cottage and outbuildings that would accommodate guests, all designed using materials that would sit in harmony with the landscape.


The next challenge was to build a house that would float in the water – as the boathouse’s footprint gave the owners the right to build a structure within the island’s cove. The two-storey building is supported on giant pontoons, and is connected to the island on one side via a bridge from the upper level, and on the other by a dock. The upper level has two bedrooms, an office and a galley area, while the lower level has a sauna, storage and a boat slip. The structure simply rises and falls with the changing water levels. Cedar was used, relating to the existing buildings, and the ‘rainscreen’ envelope of cedar strips filters the light while providing shelter from the more extreme heat and wind.


This project was completed in 2005 and is a credit not only to the innovation of the owners and their architects but also to the construction team (Kropf Industries and Penfold Construction), who faced the challenges of building in such a remote site. And, as these photos illustrate, this house does indeed sit in complete harmony with the surrounding rockscape. An inspired response to the location – and an incredible place to escape to.


For more on Floating House see this feature in Dwell and this post on ArchDaily.

Top and bottom photos by Florian Holzherr; all others by Raimund Koch for Dwell.

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