"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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