Play House: At home with architect Sarah Lee and DJ Rise Ashen

Play House: At home with architect Sarah Lee and DJ Rise Ashen

Sarah Lee has been thinking about movement all her life. She’s an architect who has recently launched her own firm, Sarah Lee Architecture, as well as a dancer known for her involvement in urban arts festival House of Paint and Capital Sessions at the National Arts Centre. Her husband, Eric Vani, a.k.a. DJ Rise Ashen, has also made his mark as a musician, most recently as part of the band Silla and Rise, which received a Juno nomination for Best World Album last year.

When the couple moved into their Alta Vista bungalow in 2005, they looked around and asked themselves: How can we make this ours? They quickly found the answer in simple, often subtle, “movement integrations” that would nurture their parkour practice.

Sarah performs a dash vault, and Rise demonstrates a precision vault off the concrete half wall in front of their house. Sarah designed the wall and steps and Rise did the construction. Photos by Amy Zambonin

Parkour is a unique sport developed some 20 years ago in France that combines jumping, climbing, swinging, and even crawling. Its philosophy is based around efficiency of movement rather than speed or feats of strength. Parkour has largely maintained its fringe status — no world championships or professional leagues — and, for Lee, that’s part of the attraction.

Sarah performs a speed vault while Rise executes a swing-through on the backyard training rig. Photo by Amy Zambonin

“As a visible minority, the notion of ‘the other’ has always been familiar to me and has often fascinated me. I’ve always been drawn to minority, fringe, and peripheral cultures. I love architecture and design and enjoy my work, but I always found something lacking. I felt there was a lack of my personal voice, the voice of ‘the other.’”

Photo by Amy Zambonin

Inspired by the Asian gardens they have visited, the couple poured concrete to create their own Shaolin posts. Here, the two practice precision jumps.

Rise and Sarah pose outside their Alta Vista home. Photo by Amy Zambonin

It’s this kind of thinking that resulted in the playful abode they share with their two young children. By expanding the idea of how to use typical house spaces and questioning the mentality of designated gyms, the couple has created an active house — and set free some artistic inspiration along the way.