Ravine House

From Modern Ruin to Ravine Inspired

John C. Parkin was a Toronto architect who notably helped advance the mid-century modern movement in Canada. Rosedale Ravine in Toronto was home to a 10,000 square foot private residence designed by Parkin which was 75% demolished by a previous owner when our client took over and brought us the project.

Elements from the original John C. Parkin’s house were resurrected to re-define the Ravine House.

The house had become a ruin; a crumbled monument to Canadian mid-century modern architecture. Much beauty remained however, in the form of masonry walls that provided a clear organizing starting point for the new design. While the walls embodied the history of the place and offered deference to Parkin’s design, we decided the new additions should be made in contrast to the original, historic masonry elements.

Mid-century modern icon John C. Parkin’s 50 Park Road.

The front of the house is two storeys facing the street while the back becomes three stories as the property falls away into the ravine. The relationship between the house and the trees of the ravine became an important way to create intimate familial spaces by creating terraces within their canopies. The house is organized around a canopy-like double height fissure, carved out between the masonry walls. This use of space parallels the ravine experience by creating its analog within the house. Regular movement through this space to get to other parts of the house create the same sense of constant emergence into and retreat out of clearings in the forest.

Like the forest, the space shows signs of the people living in it through the use of a rich array of materials including leather on the stair treads that continually gain texture and definition through ongoing use. White oak lines the central hall space and the omnipresent glass provide a persistent visual connection to the ravine that helps dissolve any sense of separateness. Multiple picturesque framed views are strategically placed throughout the house to create moments of connection and pause.

How do you create a dining room for 16 people that doesn’t look empty 80% of the time? How do you make big spaces for entertaining but still make them feel intimate, familial and appropriately quotidian? You make walls into doors. One entire leather clad wall of the space slides into position when entertaining to create a more formal room. Art and other objects, the use of sliding doors, and misaligned windows all help define the spaces without fully cutting off one from another. Outdoor rugs on exterior terraces create open air rooms that provide more variety of spaces to live in.

Geothermal heating and high-performance glass optimize energy even at highly exposed elements.

Project Facts

  • Client


  • Location

    Rosedale, Toronto, Ontario

  • Size

    13,000 sq.ft.

  • Status


  • Sub-Consultant Team

    Structural — Blackwell

    Mechanical & Electrical — BK Consulting

    Geotechnical — Haddad Geotechnical

    Landscape — Janet Rosenberg & Studio, Neil Turnbull

  • Renderings

    Nomis Digital
    Naiji Jiao

  • Photography

    Richard Johnson