4 Stunning Homes That Celebrate the Natural Beauty of Nova Scotia

4 Stunning Homes That Celebrate the Natural Beauty of Nova Scotia

By Michele Koh Morollo
Canadian architect Omar Gandhi and his team at Omar Gandhi Architect are always looking to build meaningful projects that will serve its users well.

"We use natural local materials for much of our work. It roots our projects in a particular place and helps give them meaning. We use a lot of wood including cedar, spruce, and birch. We leave concrete exposed where possible and allow steel to weather naturally," says Gandhi who splits his time between Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Toronto, Ontario.

Though the cost per square foot for most of his residential projects are quite modest, he doesn't let construction budgets get in the way of creating remarkable homes. His team manages this by using local materials, passive and sustainable strategies, and local workers. Plus, the overall square footage for their designs are never extreme. "Ultimately, we put the money where it counts most," he says.

Together with his team and the client, Gandhi likes to engage in a meditative walk-through of project sites before he starts drawing initial blueprints. 

"Walking the site together allows for a few things to happen in parallel. We experience the landscape and the key features, feel the sun and wind together, and take in the views. More importantly, we have a chance to talk to the client in an informal setting. We hear about what the landscape means to them—what it reminds them of. It’s a time for the client to dream and recall memories, and we listen while walking. That’s where the project finds its meaning," he says. 

Below, we take a look at four Nova Scotia homes designed by Omar Gandhi that bear testament to the effectiveness of his design process. 

The Lookout at Broad Cove Marsh

With a long and low profile, this home is rooted firmly to the landscape with a concrete wall that anchors the building on the uphill side. The angled-down roof looks like the front of a baseball cap and shields the home from extreme wind, rain, and snow. 

Cedar, ash, and birch were used for the facade, while a mixture of concrete and exposed, black-painted steel were used for the interiors. 

Through studying the limitations of the long linear cliff site, the architects came up with the form of the building.

Sluice Point

Inspired by the famous Acadian salt water hay stacks, which dot the landscape and are known locally as "une barge," Sluice Point’s form cranks severely to highlight key features of the landscape and to conform with the site's unique geometry. Upon approach, the keyhole entry is tall and narrow, which contrasts with the proportions of the main space as one proceeds through the house. 

The cedar shingles gray naturally over time, so the house looks like an extension of its surrounding landscape. 

Clad entirely in cedar shingles, the home features large expanses of windows and finishes in birch and spruce. 

Float

With a tinted-spruce cladding that simulates the colors of the adjacent rocks, Float sits on a flat field of rock that the architects extended structurally and experientially with a concrete floor. 

Set on a granite outcropping, this house has popup windows that mimic the headlights of a 1980s sports car, and stepped sections that follow the topography of the original site before construction.

Walnut finishings and splashes of color were used together with a predominantly neutral palette to brighten the interiors, which look out to the foggy, gray landscape.   

Rabbit Snare Gorge

Rabbit Snare Gorge was designed in collaboration with Design Base 8, a New York collective of young architecture graduates who came to him with the project. Gandhi adapted local materials and traditional forms to maximize programmatic use, while taking advantage of the dramatic landscape. The cabin looks out towards a gorge that leads to a rocky cliff at the end of the property. From within the rooms, each window frames views of the sky, sea, or trees. 

The steel doorway in mannerist proportions is drawn from the traditional makeshift windbreak seen across the east coast of Canada. 

"It takes a special client to say yes to a 25-foot-tall, two-ton Cor-ten steel entry hoop," says Gandhi.

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