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Tallgrass Prairie Pavilion Walsingham, Ontario

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Pavilion Prairie Savanna Wooded Ravine Creek / Floodplain Road

place The site is located in southern Ontario’s Norfolk Sand Plain, a generally flat landscape characterized by its deep layer of fine sand deposited by glacial lakes. Through time, wind and water have left their mark, creating sweeping eolioan dunes and deeply incised ravines with cold-water streams. Once one of the world’s premier tobacco growing areas, Norfolk is gaining recognition as the most biodiverse area of Canada. The building site is a 95-acre former tobacco farm undergoing restoration by the owner to tallgrass prairie/ black oak savanna, a rare habitat in North America as over 98% has been converted to farmland. It harbours eight endangered species, and will expand the network of important protected areas nearby. The habitat depends on regular fire for survival and renewal, so controlled burns are conducted each year. The pavilion treads lightly on this subtle yet dynamic landscape, becoming integrated with its ecosystem through its siting, materiality and through a unique construction process. Sustainable measures focused on optimizing the primary biological productivity of the site, minimizing reliance on off-site subsidies of materials, energy, and nutrients during and after construction.


Fire is a critical element in maintaining the prairie ecosystem as it gives fire resistant species (such as grasses and oaks) an advantage over aggressive forest species (such as ash and maple).

Over 65% of the wood for the project was logged and milled on site or came from local mills. Wood taken on site was non-native Larch removed to restore the native Oak-Hickory woodlands.


Using a traditional Japanese technique of wood preservation, the Larch structure and siding was charred in pit fires to provide a natural protective seal for the wood and to resist fire during controlled burns on site.

The project supported local businesses; over 85% of construction materials were manufactured or obtained within 50 km of the site; 26 of 29 people who worked on the project lived within 30 km of the site.








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Dining / Porch Galley Kitchen WC / Composting Toilet Shower Entry Storage Step Living Bedroom Porch


program Imagine a place where you can sit with the breeze against your face, gazing out over expansive fields of grass and watching swallows and butterflies drift over dunes of prairie colour; where you can awake to the sound of the Meadowlark or Bobolink, watch bumble bees laze amongst the flowers in the hot summer sun, or drift off to sleep to a chorus of Treefrogs and Katydids. This vision of an experience unique to the North American prairies and savannas drove the conception of this project. The primary objective was to develop an off-grid, threeseason dwelling pared down to its simplest elements to allow an intimate communion with the nature of the site. The design intent was to combine a modern design aesthetic, reflect the project’s rural setting and local traditions, also to root the project in its site-specific ecology. The building is redced to the most basic elements needed for shelter in this ecosystem, providing protection from rain, sun, wind, and heat without requiring energy or resource intensive materials or process. The shelter is long and narrow, its long axis oriented eastwest to take advantage of the angle of the sun and prevailing winds, providing shade and cool breeze in summer, and shelter and warmth in spring and fall. The post-and-beam structure is designed to be a light as possible to emphasize its connectedness with the landscape. Sliding polycarbonate panels (made by a local greenhouse manufacturer) open the walls to the landscape yet provide light and protection when closed.


Raised just above the tops of prairie grasses, high-ceilinged porches open out to the grassland, extending the sense of space into the surrounding fields.


Sliding wood and polycarbonate panels that use typical barn door hardware, allow the building to be adjusted to changing weather conditions.

Submission2012 tallgrass