By Phil Roberts…
Architects Warren Mack and David Snell spent many years studying architecture together at Carleton University and then working together on large scale projects for HOK. Over the years, they slowly began to realize that they work seamlessly with each other, which led them to start their firm, Studio Tangent Architects in Toronto.
After spending most of their careers being involved in massive projects around the globe, they earnestly desired to do work on a smaller scale. They both have an appreciation for craftsmanship and wanted to explore that aspect of architecture in ways that may not have been possible at a larger scale. Also, building a relationship with the client and not with a client rep/bureaucracy was appealing to them. Craft and direct client relations permit them to deal directly with the site, which in their view is as much a part of the process as the budget and client wish list.
The Ravine House in Toronto is a project where the site has created ample opportunities for the architects to discover new spaces. Projected to be completed in July 2014, the Ravine House rests on a spectacular site in the middle of a protected ravine. The owner bought the land realizing that it was a challenging site on which to build. The client really wanted to explore all the possibilities of that site. “The topography drops off in every conceivable direction,” says Mack who admires how the external elements created unique spatial relationships on the interior. As a result, natural light enters the house in multiple ways, through clerestories, around corners and over flat roofs. Snell feels that the house is contemporary in style “but not contemporary zen minimalist. […] You won’t get a sense that you can’t put a coffee cup down on a table. It doesn’t feel like you’re living in a museum.”
For most of their projects, they try to go beyond rural architecture. “People seem pretty willing to explore different styles.” Though they were trained as architects in the era where plan-section-elevation were the primary forms of representation, they have become adept at using SketchUp for 3D modeling, including using it during the construction phase of projects to resolve queries from clients. And this is what they love about working on small projects. The ability to bring the client into the process and showcase possibilities before their eyes.