The Toronto cube house cluster might not be as famous as the kubuswoning in the Netherlands, but it’s just as charming. Built in 1996 on a small strip of land wedged in between the Adelaide St overpass, Eastern Ave, and Sumach St, the cube house pays homage to the original homes designed by Piet Blom in the 1970s in Helmond and the Blaakse Forest in Rotterdam.
Blom envisioned the kubuswoning as a forest, with each home representing a tree which allowed residents to experience living in the sky. This concept of “living as an urban roof” gave the cube dwellers a great view from all angles as they lived in the tree houses. Inspired by Le Corbusier, the design also limited residential space on the ground floor, thus maximizing the public space for everyone in the city to enjoy and creating village within the city.
Blom saw the cube houses as a way to combat some of the more modern and utilitarian architecture that was prevalent across the Netherlands as cities were rebuilt following the destruction inflicted during WWII. The structures have hexagon pylon bases with a cubic living space atop. There are 3 levels within each cube with an approximate living space of 1,000 square feet (100 square meters). However, three quarters of that space is unusable due to the 55 degree angle of the walls.
The three cube houses in Toronto are a little different from Blom’s design, but the influence is obvious. Designed by Ben Kutner and Jeff Brown in 1996 with grand plans to develop an entire forest like the village in Rotterdam, as a larger community called the unitri. They ran into difficulties with the landowner and the resulting legal battle changed their plans, leaving just the single structure. Kutner and Brown argued that the cube house they built was chattel and could therefore be moved from the land it had been built on. However, the landowner made the argument that it was part of the site and eventually won the case for the structures to remain.
The founder of Coffee Time, Tom Michalopoulos, purchased the site in 2002 for $265,000 and soon after rented it out to Martin Trainor, a producer at CBC. Around that time, siding and plywood were put up, obstructing the metal columns holding each cube up. In 2016, the land on which the cube house resides was put on the market. The price tag for the 9,000 square foot parcel is not public, so serious buyers need to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to get any information.