Location: Ontario, Canada
Architects: MOS, Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample
There are many qualities that make Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample’s House No. 2 stand out from the crowd, but there’s one that must be addressed first: it floats. And not only that, but it has none of the traditional features of a floating house; it has no resemblance to a boat nor any nautical associations. Rather, it maintains a traditional “house” silhouette above the surface: a symmetrical pitched roof and a few floor-to-ceiling windows along the sides. It is the image of a typical vernacular style home in a most unlikely place.
The Floating House sits just above the waters of Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada. It is connected to the two adjacent islands by long narrow bridges that accommodate for the natural sway of the water. And because these waters are part of the Great Lakes, the house was designed to accommodate extreme weather and water conditions. The lake sees dramatic changes in weather throughout the seasons, and the water level can be very low or high. The Floating House was designed as a challenge to combat these contingencies, with a complex underbelly that contains a number of steel pontoons and other unique nautical elements. The pontoons are filled with air so it floats when the water level is high and rests comfortably on the lakebed when the water level is low.
Because the house is in a remote part of Canada, traditional construction methods and materials were too costly. Instead, the architects used cost-effective strategies such as prefabrication and employed local materials in order to focus on the quality of the design and the unconventional engineering feats of the house.
Interestingly, the house was purposefully fabricated in the winter to take advantage of the stiffness of the frozen lake as solid ground. The house was completed just as the ice thawed. Including the sourcing of the materials and its construction, the Floating House was entirely created within a 50-mile radius.
The design of the house’s interior combats the extreme weather conditions of the lake as well. The cedar strips that line the perimeter vary in density to provide light in some areas and insulation in others. The distribution of materials effectively reduces both wind load and heat gain, ensuring that the owners don’t need to frequently rely on the air conditioning system.