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Growth Spurt

Local studio Stacklab crafts an easily replicated greenhouse prototype for tiny Toronto backyards made of polycarbonate and marine-grade plywood.

By Elena Sénéchal-Becker
Photography by Patrick Biller

If there’s one thing Stacklab founder Jeff Forrest loves, it’s a good system. From the Stacklab line of customizable felt furniture to his ECC table system, it’s what his Toronto-based company excels at – and what it loves to do. 

One of the studio’s latest inventions took root in a Chinatown backyard last fall. Commissioned by a regular patron to come up with a greenhouse prototype that would replace their defunct lap pool, the studio got to work on the design process. One slight roadblock: in Toronto, only structures with a gross floor area of less than 100 square feet can be considered “temporary,” and thus exempt from the permitting process. To skirt the red tape, Stacklab took the ordinance at face value: the ballooning, concave structure expands its walls outward, making room for a plethora of greenery. “We wanted to create a bulbous structure that allows us to maximize the internal space,” says Forrest. The extent of the “bulb” was determined by software that calculates the bending radii of sheet material. 

Backyard greenhouse prototype by Stacklab
Stacklab founder Jeff Forrest watering plants inside the backyard greenhouse prototype

Stacklab programmed in the polycarbonate sheets’ specifications – then modelled the greenhouse’s shape around pushing the material to its limits (but no further). Made of marine-grade plywood, the greenhouse’s ribs, as Forrest calls them, are modular – add a couple more and you’ll get a pavilion-like shape. Once the first build was complete, the process continued: “We went in to take temperature readings in the winter. We’re still making little tweaks here and there.” But if this iteration’s success is any indication, Stacklab’s sculptural greenhouse model could soon come to a backyard near you. It’s a building made to grow – just like the plants it shelters. ​STACKLAB.CA


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