Inspired by music and mathematical principals, this light-filled oasis is built into a river valley in a central Toronto neighborhood, and it’s currently on the market for $17.2 million.
Known as the “Integral House,” the property was built by its former owner, the late mathematician James Stewart, who commissioned Toronto-based Shim-Sutcliffe Architects to design a building inspired by the beauty of calculus. The home they conceived is dominated by the geometry of a curve, a motif that is manifest most strikingly in an undulating curtain wall that encases the upper levels of the house. Vertical oak-clad blades punctuate the rippling façade between panes of glass that offer varying views of the surrounding trees.
Dr. Stewart, a mathematician who authored a groundbreaking series of calculus textbooks was also a musician and wanted his property to accommodate guests for intimate musical performances. To this end, the architects created a tall, wide, central room with a balcony and a curving glass wall facing the ravine, which became the principal setting for musical events and gatherings.
The project took nearly a decade to complete and went on to win a Governor-General’s Medal for Architecture (Canada’s equivalent to a National Medal). Then, following Dr. Stewart’s death in 2015, the home was listed for CAD $22.9 million ($17. 3 million).
The property has a relatively understated two-story street front, but expands over five levels on the inside, descending down the slope of the ravine across 18,000 square feet of living space. The four bedrooms are located on the upper floors, while the lower level houses the pool area, which has retractable windows for open-air swimming, as well as a gym, sauna, and powder room. From here, the property opens up onto a leafy patio, or a snowy one, depending on the season.
In consideration of the cold Canadian winters, the property features a heated driveway, heated walkways, and heated flooring throughout, as well as three wood-burning fireplaces. There is also an elevator serving three levels and a three-car garage.
“What is amazing about this home is that it is set in the ravine,” says Sotheby’s listing agent Paul Maranger. “Not at the edge of the ravine, nor set back from the ravine, which is the practice in Toronto, but literally in the ravine. It’s like living in a glass tree house.”
Toronto is Canada’s business and financial center and the country’s largest city with a population of roughly 2.6 million, yet it feels more like Melbourne than London or New York. There are occasional pockets of urban density, but the city is comprised largely of a series of neighborhoods that spread out across the northwest shore of Lake Ontario.
Rosedale, where the Integral House is located, is an upscale neighborhood with stately Victorian homes that houses many of the city’s top executives. It also offers an easy commute to downtown. “What distinguishes Toronto from other cities on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States is that we have single family detached homes, some on 2-plus acres that you can drive to the downtown core from in less than 20 minutes,” says Michael Kalles of Harvey Kalles Real Estate in Toronto.
Toronto’s housing prices have risen dramatically in recent years and 2015 was no exception. Figures released by the Canadian Real Estate Association show the price of the average single-family home in Toronto jumped 15 percent this February compared with the same time last year. Some analysts have warned of a possible price correction, but Paul Maranger at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada believes fundamentals are still strong.
“Income and employment are strong. Interest rates are low. Unless one of these variables changes, we don’t expect prices to drop.” Plus, he says, Toronto has limited land on which to build, and this keeps supply in check. “Unlike many other cities, we are landlocked by Lake Ontario.”
The city’s housing market, particularly the high-end segment, has also been boosted by interest from overseas investors, buyers from the Middle East, Russia, and China who are drawn by the country’s safety, good schools, clean air, and prices that are relatively affordable compared with other international centers. Given the Canadian dollar’s recent slip, largely due to declining oil prices, this demand is likely to continue.
Photos courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada