Twelve Tacoma by Toronto-based Aleph-Bau, stands out in a steady line-up of typical 19th century workers’ rowhouses in Toronto’s central Summerhill neighbourhood. The coloured brick facades and front porches of the neighbouring houses couch Twelve Tacoma in a local vernacular that both subdues and accentuates its modern qualities. The effect comes from the choice of materials: The white paint and corrugated aluminum cladding are distinctly elegant, crisp additions to an otherwise familiar neighbourhood aesthetic. Certain details like the simple front railing and plexiglass awning over the door mimic the ordinary signifiers of the neighbouring homes, but with a decidedly contemporary bent.
Yet, Twelve Tacoma is not over-bearing or out of place. The aluminum upper level goes almost unseen from the front of the house, poking up over the rooftop like a curious child. From the laneway in the back, the full vertical mass comes into view, as stacked viewpoints dissolve the borders of inside and outside, bringing the nearby foliage into the home and the inhabitants to the outdoors. To construct the third-floor addition without burdening the party walls, a new steel structure is introduced to the original wooden building from the ground all the way to the upper roof.
Twelve Tacoma is open and transparent, inviting nature in. An upstairs bathroom is fitted with a wall of plants, overhanging the bathtub, with the whole space set in slightly by a balcony. The staircase in the center of the home acts as a pivotal force in the design, its whimsical geometry giving the space a playful character, while the basement living room is slightly sunken, making the concrete bench seating feel like a small, personal amphitheatre.