Camp Arowhon is a family-run summer camp in Algonquin Park. The new 250m² two-storey Toronto storefront is a new headquarters intended to create a visual presence in the community, facilitate administration, and create a place which fosters the post-camp alumni community. The owners wanted the building to feel like “a piece of Algonquin Park in the city” in order to evoke the character of camp, while wanting to avoid the camp imagery overused by spas and clothing retailers. The character was established instead through the use and detailing of materials: using harvested raw and rough-hewn wood from the camp, and detailing them with a more polished, but simple elegance found in camp buildings.
The solution is a simple dumbbell plan with three discrete elements that link the camp community with a “constructed nature” in three guises: as concept (storefront with forest picture frame and public bench on the street), as artefact (memory forest with birch saplings and wall of 72 years of camper photographs) and in the flesh (roof garden – a private garden space replete with trees and grasses, built from cedar harvested near the camp creating, if not Algonquin, a patch of nature in the city). Private offices and reception are at the front and rear, and common space at the centre connected with the skylit memory forest. The cedar cladding extends above the building to allow for cut out letters (in the spirit of tree houses and camp craft wood burning, writ large) so that the animated sky is seen through the name Camp Arowhon.