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Toronto's Tetris Inspired Home

We have all played the game “Tetris” at least once in our lives. We were mesmerized by the magic of geometry and rewarded by our efficiency. For rzlbd Tetris is not just a game of block arrangement and fast performance, but it is a quest of effective design. If a designer of space was to be structured as Tetris blocks, there would be virtually zero wasted space within a building.
Towards the end of the day, when dusk arrives, the glowing lights from the interior gives the feeling that each volume is floating in space.

When a client demanded a program that seemed impossible to fit in a 40’ by 110’ lot, specially if one tries to respect a tight zoning for an infill project in a city like Toronto, rzlbd decided to practice the challenges of “no leftover space” with a simple rule in mind: every inch is a usable inch.

The house is 3,000 square feet, three-story structure that has the same program as a 4,000 square feet house previously designed by rzlbd, 5 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, 2 laundries, nanny room, home office, a large living/dining area and a spacious kitchen, bar with a wine cellar and entertainment area, covered garage and of course lots of storage area. Although Tetris house is compact in program, it manages to channel sufficient natural light throughout the entire length of the house. The light well that penetrates from the upper floor to the basement plugging into the living room with a glass-covered opening is an invisible Tetris element that helps bring a vertical light element into the house.

For better efficiency the 55 feet long wall on ground floor is filled with a continuous built-in millwork that adapts to the needs of the programs. It transforms from the office shelving by the entry foyer, to the kitchen/dining cabinets and the fireplace in the living area. The millwork not only connects the four programs but also creates lots of storage space and a clean modern look to avoid a congested floor plan. The Tetris elements that plug into one another create challenges such as meeting appropriate height clearances and stair landings to properly meet the floors. These issues were carefully dealt with in section by individual steps on each level corresponding to the change in programs to allow for sufficient height on the lower levels.

The exterior of the house is a surprising jumble of different materials and claddings that courageously expose the Tetris elements of the interior spaces. This bold exposure is not an attempt at creating a harmonious façade, yet it is an attractive and charming scene as it displays the geometry of a well-played Tetris game.

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