Rockcliffe’s Hart Massey home earns designation for ‘national significance’

A Rockcliffe Park home designed by famed architect Hart Massey has been designated a site of national significance in an announcement by Parks Canada.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced six new designations last week, reflecting the “rich and varied history of our country in areas related to Canadian Confederation, Indigenous history, cinema, education, and architecture.”

Built in 1959, the Hart Massey House is touted as “an iconic example of mid-20th century modernism in residential architecture in Canada, and a Canadian example of International style because of its sensitivity to its natural surroundings,” according to Parks Canada.

The son of former Gov.-Gen. Vincent Massey, Hart Massey was a renowned architect who built the home on Lansdowne Road, one of the few homes overlooking McKay Lake, for himself and his family. The family lived there past Massey’s retirement in 1970.

The two-storey home is described as a minimalist structure built from a series of modular boxes enclosed by alternating glass and opaque walls.

“Elevated on thin steel columns so it appears to float above its sloped site on McKay Lake, the house was designed to preserve the integrity of its natural environment,” the Parks Canada description reads. “Its architecture is an extension of the landscape, and its dramatic expanses of glass erase the line between indoor and outdoor space.”

The east side of the house faces the lake with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer an unobstructed view of the landscape, which includes a large willow, shrubs, flowers and perennial plants.

The home was purchased from the Massey family in 1977 by Thomas and Susan d’Aquino, who described themselves as “passionate gardeners,” and the property would garner several awards in garden competitions.

In May 2000, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada recognized the site as having been “significant in shaping our built environment.”

Parks Canada noted subsequent owners have “carefully restored and renovated the house while meticulously respecting its original concept.”

Other buildings designated a site of national significance by Parks Canada include Park House in Amherstburg, Ont., and Truro Old Normal College in Truro, N.S.

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