Peter Hamilton’s house of steel

Perched at the edge of a steep, heavily-treed escarpment, architect Peter Hamilton’s house at 2 Hedgewood Road is one of the few steel-framed residences in Toronto. Its unabashed celebration of industrial elements also makes it a relatively early (1974) example of High Tech design.

Given the precipitous site, Hamilton anchored into bedrock a lightweight steel structure of 6”x6” H-columns on a long-span 12’ grid, with acoustical steel decking for the floors and roof. East and west walls are steel panels, finished in a metallic silver-grey colour to convey the machine aesthetic. The north wall is primarily glass block, for diffused light and privacy, while the south wall immerses the house into the surrounding trees through towering panes of floor-to-ceiling glass. A large roof terrace tops the garage and housekeeper’s quarters, and is connected to the main house by a second-floor bridge as well as a pipe-railing staircase in the secluded courtyard.

The interiors continue the expression of industrial materials. Structural columns and beams are clearly exposed, as are the electrical systems and mechanical ducting, their crisp white finishes contrasting the soft dove grey of the wall panels and ceilings. The living room is a full two storeys in height and is overlooked by the master suite mezzanine; the sense of soaring space is enhanced by the sunken floor. A glazed atrium extends from the living room like a transparent treehouse. Counterbalancing the steel and glass are the natural colours and textures of slate floors, built-in birchwood storage units and upholstery in shades of gold, orange and red. Below the living room is a plant-filled conservatory with a small dip pool, sauna and private terrace.

In plan, materials and details, the Hamilton residence shows the influence of pioneering steel houses by Pierre Chareau, Jean Prouvé, Charles Eames, Pierre Koenig, Raphael Soriano and others. Hamilton also had his own experience to draw upon: renovations of his earlier homes at 44 Farnham Road and 71 Tranby Avenue introduced glass walls, industrial materials and open, multi-level spaces into Victorian brick structures. 2 Hedgewood Road received a 1974 Canadian Housing Design Council award.

2 Responses to “Peter Hamilton’s house of steel”

  1. 1 Lloyd Alter (@lloydalter) February 19, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    it is so wonderful to see Peter Hamilton get a bit of the exposure he deserved. So talented.

  2. 2 Northener July 2, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Peter was a man of great talent and insight. Good to see his fine work acknowledged.

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