Sylvan Living: Toronto’s Sustainable Architectural Marvel

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Project Data

• Year: 2021
• Location: North York, Toronto, ON, Canada
• Size: 3,850 SF (357 SM)

Team info:
• Designer: Dewson Architects
• Structural Engineer: Revive Structural Engineering

• Contractor: Fairside Homes
• Photographer: ©2021 RVLTR / A. Marthouret

In the bustling metropolis of Toronto, where the challenges of construction are as tall as the city’s skyscrapers, Dewson Architects has unveiled Sylvan Living—a remarkable mid-century split-level home in North York. This architectural gem not only breathes new life into a classic design but also embraces sustainability in the heart of Canada’s largest city.

The Challenge of Urban Innovation

Constructing in Toronto is a test of patience and creativity. With soaring land costs, stringent regulations, and budgetary constraints, delivering an exceptional project on time can seem like an insurmountable task. Yet, Dewson Architects thrives on such challenges, having tackled complex ventures before, including the renovation of heritage-protected homes in Rosedale and constructing a flood-resistant house in Etobicoke.

Architectural Vision: A Fourfold Focus

Dewson Architects approached the Sylvan Living project with a clear vision encompassing four key objectives:

  1. Reconnecting with Nature: The architects aimed to transform a mundane split-level home into a luxurious sanctuary that harmonizes with the surrounding ravine. The design reorients the living spaces, opening them to the side yard, offering unparalleled views of the natural landscape.
  2. Navigating Regulatory Hurdles: Meeting regulatory requirements was essential, including satisfying the Toronto Regional Conservation Authority (TRCA), which holds jurisdiction over the site. Dewson Architects navigated these challenges adeptly.
  3. Sustainable Transformation: Sustainability was a core principle. Passive ventilation, an airtight envelope, and the reuse of the foundation all contributed to making Sylvan Living an eco-friendly haven.
  4. Longevity and Value: The architects sought to extend the home’s life by a century through robust design, adhering to codes, and maximizing a limited budget.

Designing for Connection and Efficiency

The architectural transformation was striking. The living spaces were repositioned to maximize the connection to nature, while the master suite was elevated, creating a treehouse-like experience with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors blurring the boundary between indoors and outdoors. Additionally, a rooftop terrace was added, expanding the living space while offering breathtaking views of the surroundings.

Sustainability at Its Core

Sylvan Living boasts several sustainable features, including passive ventilation for efficient cooling, an airtight envelope to minimize energy consumption, and triple-glazed windows that balance panoramic views with insulation. By reusing the existing foundation, the project reduced costs and embodied energy. Durable materials like cement cladding ensure longevity with minimal maintenance.

“Viable Sustainability”: Dewson’s Approach

Dewson Architects’ philosophy, “viable sustainability,” goes beyond environmental concerns. It considers cultural and financial aspects, aligning the project with the client’s budget and cultural identity. As Bill Dewson puts it, “A truly sustainable project finds the sweet spot between the environment, stakeholder needs, and financial constraints.”


Sylvan Living by Dewson Architects is a testament to innovation and sustainability in the heart of Toronto. This mid-century masterpiece not only respects the past but also embraces the future. It’s a harmonious blend of architectural vision, regulatory expertise, and a commitment to sustainable living—a home that stands as a model for Toronto’s urban evolution.

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