On his first trip to Mike Lazaridis's lakefront property off the shores of Lake Huron, architect Siamak Hariri fell down a hill, got lost and stumbled upon a foot-long piece of driftwood that would shape the palette of the mansion known as Solaris.
The driftwood, which Mr. Hariri kept and is in his home today, inspired the colour of the limestone that wraps the house. It's reflected in the ceiling, which is made of ash wood carved to mimic the driftwood's soft curves.
While the palette of Solaris is purposely subdued (grey, beige and bronze), the building is anything but that. Its long, thin shape is meant to mimic the outstretched wings of an angel. Mr. Hariri thought of the Louvre's Winged Victory of Samothrace when sketching the design.
"The house really attempts this idea of flying," Mr. Hariri says of the unfinished retreat. "You can't escape the heroic. It's not trying to be timid. But at the same time, I think it will feel intimate."
Toronto-based Hariri Pontarini Architects defeated five architectural firms in a 2005 competition to design the Lake Huron house, which will serve as a getaway for Mr. Lazaridis, the founder of Research In Motion, and his family, and as a gathering place for some of the world's leading thinkers.
In architecture, Hariri Pontarini is one of the country's best. Its list of projects includes designing York University's Schulich School of Business in Toronto and transforming the west wing of the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The firm is currently working in Santiago on the 26,000-square-foot Baha'i Temple for South America. In 2010, the Chile project was named one of the top 100 yet-to-be-completed civic buildings in the world. Mr. Hariri believes Mr. Lazaridis's Lake Huron house, whose design has been kept private until now, is in a similar league as the Baha'i Temple.
"They're both at the very extreme of stretching what's possible," he says.
The Lazaridis cottage compound - inside and out
- The lakeside house of RIM founder Mike Lazaridis is about 26,000 square feet, sitting on roughly 51 hectares of land along the shores of Southern Ontario's Lake Huron.
- The property includes about one kilometre of lake frontage.
- Construction began in August, 2006, and could wrap up this year.
- The original budget was $20-million, but the figure has climbed to an undisclosed amount.
- The house includes 22,000 square feet of glass, 839 tonnes of stone and 77 tonnes of bronze.
- The mezzanine is home to the world's largest piece of laminated glass, the builders say – about 15 metres wide and three metres tall. It was made in Germany because no Canadian manufacturer makes glass that big.
- The floor will be covered in a limestone similar in colour to Lake Huron's sandy beach.
- The walls will be painted off-white, Sherwin-Williams #1053.
- Cantilever construction allows for the building's glass boxes to hang without exterior bracing.
- A wind turbine supplies electricity to the house.
- 4,000 square feet have been set aside for the Lazaridis family living quarters.
- The slope has been reinforced to prevent erosion.
- Storm water is being diverted to ponds to control the rate of groundwater absorption.
- A majority of the building materials has been sourced from within 161 kilometres.
- Mr. Lazaridis asked for the stone fireplace in his glass-walled office to be moved slightly so he could see the historic Point Clark Lighthouse, built in 1859.
- The house is named Solaris after director Steven Soderbergh's 2002 science-fiction movie of the same name. The movie, a remake, is based on a novel by Polish author Stanislaw Lem.
With a report from Alex Bozikovic