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Manhattan architect builds in a 'sublime and awesome' landscape

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Alexander Gorlin describes it as a primal site – all granite rocks and wild, crashing waves of the North Atlantic. It is what the Manhattan architect first saw several years ago, viewing it from a helicopter with his American client. Inspired immediately by the starkness of the Nova Scotian scenery, Mr. Gorlin knew exactly what he wanted to build there: “The landscape was sublime and awesome … a 10 on the Richter scale,” he said in a recent interview. “Nevertheless, the scale of the site could be easily overwhelmed by a large monolithic house, so I decided to divide it up into pavilions to fit into the landscape of boulders and mini-ponds on the granite shelf.”

Chris Dickson

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The stunning 6,000-square-foot waterfront home near Ketch Harbour, a picturesque seaside community just 25 minutes from Halifax. The house is a series of concrete and glass pavilions that soar above the rocks; their curved roofs are both practical and dramatic. They repel the water from the ocean storms as Mr. Gorlin pays homage to the fluttering sails of ships, new and old.

Chris Dickson

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Mr. Gorlin explains the curtain of glass that fronts each of the pavilions is designed to “frame the view of the different aspects of the site” – the horizon of the ocean, the container ships along the Halifax shipping lanes, the summer parade of yachts destined for Chester on the province’s South Shore, a historic lighthouse and a Second World War bunker once used to spot enemy ships.

Chris Dickson

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Inside, the three bedroom and four-and-a-half bathroom home features minimal furnishings and a colour palette of whites and greys (with a few splashes of colour) that work in harmony with the landscape. The floors are Bulgarian limestone, which was shipped first to Italy for processing.

Chris Dickson

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The drawers in the all-white kitchen are equipped with individual motors so that they slide open effortlessly with just one touch.

Chris Dickson

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As stark as is the landscape around it, so are the memories for its owner, an international tax attorney from Georgia. Sadly, he has never been able to enjoy it – two years before its completion his wife died suddenly. “I need to put that behind me,” says the owner, who asked that his name not be used, explaining why it is now up for sale.

Chris Dickson

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At $6.7-million, the home is the most expensive listing in Nova Scotia and is featured prominently in the February issue of Architectural Digest.

Chris Dickson

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“We were into simplicity and … a modern design that emphasized the property and not so much the ornamentation of a house,” says the owner.

Chris Dickson

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Although there is air-conditioning throughout, the great rooms are equipped with industrial-looking and energy efficient “big ass fans.”

Chris Dickson

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It is Mr. Gorlin’s first commission in Canada – and a great experience. (He says he even ended up making good friends with a Ketch Harbour family, who lent him their boat to view the site. “I love Canada,” says Mr. Gorlin.)

Chris Dickson

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