Smith Residence by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple

Located in Nova Scotia, Canada, Smith Residence is a vacation home consisting of three pavilions on a two-acre site spanning from a salt pond to bold oceanfront. The project has been recently designed by Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects.


This is a proto-urban project, forming a village, together with other houses designed by the architect, on the site of a historic fishing village. While the traditional forms of these houses echo the local vernacular, they are made absolutely modern through their cladding, fenestration and minimalist detailing. Smith Residence is a mature expression of an architectural language, developed over forty years.

The clients requested a house that referenced the history of the site – namely, a 400-year-old granite ruin that sits adjacent. The design is thus centred around a monumental stone plinth constructed of local granite, brought to the place by retreating glaciers during the last ice age – the foundation material traditionally hand split for construction of the original village.

It consists of three gabled structures: a ‘day pavilion’, a ‘night pavilion’ and a ‘shed’. The almost entirely glazed day pavilion emphasizes ‘prospect’, while the cave like night pavilion emphasizes ‘refuge’. The shed, perched on the roadside retaining wall, acts like a gate house. The day pavilion contains the social functions of the dwelling – kitchen, dining, and living. This temple-like place atop the stone plinth is almost completely glazed, emphasizing the datum of the ocean horizon, and views to the surrounding hills. One crosses the granite plinth to access the night pavilion, which is mirrored in the infinity hot tub. The cantilevered Corten ‘bite’ frames views to the landscape on entry.

By thoughtfully considering local material culture and micro-climates, Smith Residence is designed to stand resilient yet lightly upon the landscape. It is monumental yet modest in its approach, resting on 15,000-year-old granite, and wrapped in a protective steel embrace against an unknown climatic future.

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- by Matt Watts

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