This Isolated Prefab Is One with the Wild

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By Luke Hopping and Dwell / Published by Dwell
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A home in Ontario, Canada, demonstrates how factory-built housing can be as site sensitive as traditional construction.

On Rainy Lake in Ontario, a cedar-clad cottage extends almost naturally from an outcrop of volcanic rock. Like organisms that have adapted to a harsh climate, the home’s two volumes bend with the glacier-formed ridge, their steel foundation bolted firmly to the basalt. One would hardly suspect the home was born on a factory floor roughly 400 miles away. 

Retirees Dr. Mary Ellen Kennedy and Robert Dault tasked architect Charlie Lazor with bringing a prefabricated 2,100-square-foot home to their lakeside property, located in one of rural Ontario’s unorganized territories.

Retirees Dr. Mary Ellen Kennedy and Robert Dault tasked architect Charlie Lazor with bringing a prefabricated 2,100-square-foot home to their lakeside property, located in one of rural Ontario’s unorganized territories.

 For Charlie Lazor, the Minneapolis architect who customized this prefab, designing from a distance is nothing new. Since 2006, his panelized FlatPak homes have shipped all across the United States, from Texas to New Jersey. 

Modifying a different, modular system, Lazor was able to meet the site’s specifications with a level of precision local builders couldn’t match. "It’s a wooded, frontier kind of place," he says. "You’re not going to find significant general contracting resources there." 

 When the prefab left the factory in Stratford, Wisconsin, in early 2013, it was 95 percent complete. Braving a winter delivery, during which the truck skidded off the icy roads into a snow bank, the payload arrived unscathed and was erected in hours.

The three-bedroom home is connected to a dock house, garage, and vegetable garden by a network of wood walkways and decks.

The three-bedroom home is connected to a dock house, garage, and vegetable garden by a network of wood walkways and decks.

A single "kiss point" where the two modules meet defines the home’s relationship to its environment, forming a V-shaped breezeway and framing expansive views of the lake. 

 To let in the scenery, Lazor proposed a wall of trapezoidal windows—a challenge for the factory but a priority for the residents, retirees Dr. Mary Ellen Kennedy and Robert Dault. With a little planning, the workers were able to make the worthwhile customization. "It’s all about knowing the knobs and dials you can play with that are factory friendly," says Lazor, "and steering clear of the ones that are troublesome." 

The Japanese-style bathroom, which is clad in teak, features a matching tub and sink by Bath in Wood.

The Japanese-style bathroom, which is clad in teak, features a matching tub and sink by Bath in Wood.