White Rock Omar Gandhi Architects Ema Peter

Breathtaking Views Frame a Unique Steel Retreat

Nestled at the end of a long and winding driveway through the forest, White Rock stands majestically atop a steep rocky incline, overlooking the picturesque north bank of the Gaspereau River Valley in Kings County, Nova Scotia, Canada. This magnificent location holds deep historical and cultural significance, being the unceded territory of the Mi’Kmaq indigenous community and carrying profound roots for the Acadian community, who named the river after the gaspereau fish. Situated south of the town of Wolfville, Gaspereau Valley is renowned for its thriving agricultural community, abundant dairy farms, apple orchards, and, more recently, the emergence of Nova Scotia’s finest vineyards and cideries. Notably, at the base of White Rock lies one of the region’s most celebrated vineyards.

White Rock Omar Gandhi Architects Ema Peter

White Rock, designed by Omar Gandhi Architects, is not your traditional cottage; instead, it was meticulously designed as a retreat, offering solitude high above the valley floor and captivating views above the tree line. The purpose of this unique escape is to disconnect, unwind, and rejuvenate, providing friends, colleagues, and families with an environment that fosters improved mental well-being. 

“I am a fan of the valley, a captivating four-season region offering skiing, hiking, cycling and wine amenities. It’s quickly gaining popularity as an alternative to the oceanfront south shore. Following the challenges of Covid, our project was born from the aspiration to create a serene woodland retreat, a meditative escape. Diverging from neighbouring properties, we embraced a unique approach, blending craft, design, texture, and light variation to evoke an aura of mystery and darkness complemented by delightful surprises and breathtaking views of the forest and valley beyond,”

Omar Gandhi, Principal.

Approaching White Rock is an enchanting sensory experience. A steep uphill driveway and tight hairpin turn lead to a gravel path accessible only by foot, encouraging a slower, more immersive connection with nature. The cabin’s silhouette appears both imposing and gracefully perched on the rocky ridge. Tall trees, generations of decomposing tree limbs, and natural outcroppings create a haven for the forest’s inhabitants. The landscape design harmoniously blends with the woodland environment, leaving a light footprint. Rainwater is thoughtfully captured and stored for irrigation while existing trees offer shelter from the summer sun.

Inspired by traditional hunting cabins and duck blinds, the architectural design features a large, heavy corten steel volume resting atop seemingly slender legs. A smaller corten entry volume is recessed underneath, emerging from the expansive rock below, anchoring the structure to the site. Weathered steel extends beyond the pure corten volume, accentuating the vast glazing on the second floor, and offering breathtaking views of the river valley.

White Rock’s austere exterior is a stark contrast to its interiors. Stepping inside White Rock, visitors are greeted with an intimate, dimly lit space. The first floor houses bedrooms and a bathroom adorned with minimal and raw aesthetics. Smoked oak interiors, complemented by raw steel shelving and wall-mounted industrial light fixtures, create a soothing atmosphere. Antique linens and hand-dyed fabrics adorn the beds, adding an element of history and warmth. Large picture windows provide glimpses into the enchanting forest surroundings, blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors.

Nothing is accidental and White Rock surprises at every turn. Ascending the dimly lit stairwell brings guests to the expansive and bright second floor. A massive window, encased in a cantilevered corten steel hoop embraces the southeast corner, while raw steel benches provide the perfect spot to absorb the stunning views. A wood-burning fireplace anchors the east wall, surrounded by timeless furniture pieces, including an antique Arne Norell lounge chair and designs by Luca Nichetto and Montauk. The west wall houses a sleek kitchen composed of protruding stainless steel shelves and millwork, cleverly concealing Fisher & Paykel appliances.

Central to the living and dining space is a collaboration between a white oak dining table by Mjolk and chairs and benches designed by Nick Mazerolle and Hannah Newton, infusing the area with warmth and craftsmanship. An eye-catching chandelier, created in collaboration with Concord Lighting, adds a focal point, while the juxtaposition of contemporary and antique furniture alongside clean stainless and raw steel accents adds an element of intrigue and joy.

Completing this exceptional experience is the rooftop, accessed through a corten steel roof hatch. A secluded haven amongst Japanese maple trees offers an ideal spot for dining and relaxation, providing panoramic views of the Gaspereau Valley’s lush tree canopy.

White Rock is a tribute to both the harmony between architecture and nature and its contrasts, thoughtfully crafted to evoke joy and intrigue. The deliberate design choices encourage visitors to disconnect, find solace in nature, and experience a profound sense of connection with the environment.

For those seeking a retreat like no other, White Rock offers an opportunity to immerse themselves in nature’s magic, embrace rawness, and engage in reflection and meditation amidst the lush woods of Gaspereau Valley.

Photographer: Ema Peter