The design of this Gulf Islands’ private residence responds to the Client’s brief for the creation a ‘modern log cabin’ on a precious 3.1 acre piece of ocean-front property. The Client was torn between the idea of the rustic Canadian log cabin and the desire for a glass house. Through the use of a highly expressive structure, expanses of glass and a simple & minimal material palette the project took this challenge as it’s fundamental concept, striving to reconcile the rustic with the modern in its form, materiality and organization.
There was a conscious decision to root the design of the house in the highly local, regional West Coast Style as pioneered by B.C. Binning, Robert Berwick, Ned Pratt, Ron Thom, Fred Hollingsworth and Arthur Erickson. Post & beam construction, exposed timber structural members, extensive glazing, open floor plans, the integration of interior and exterior, wood finishes, flat roofs, orientation to views and a delicate integration with natural setting have been carefully integrated while confidently pushing the design into a new and innovative direction.
The structural concept is integral to the architectural expression and organization of the house; the house has been designed to act as a bridge, thereby creating a minimal footprint on the site and allowing for the native grasses and flora to flow underneath. Working with the topography, the house defines a peaceful internal courtyard, protecting this internal space from the prevailing south east winds. The house is defined in two parts – a solid stone base, sunken into the land referencing the existing rock outcrops on the site and a light timber ‘bridge’ resting upon it. The strong horizontals of the heavy timbers reference the horizon – the transparency to the ocean opens the full house to stunning panoramic views of the sea.
Surrounded by 80 acres of forest, and set within an apple orchard cleared and planted at the beginning of the century, the setting for the house is dramatic with respect to its natural features, topography and unimpeded panoramic views of the Straight of Georgia and beyond. A critical design imperative was to bring the experience of the outside in creating a seamless experience between the house and the landscape. The house has been sited predominantly on the location of the previous house to minimize the impact on the site, though sited slightly lower on the hill and further from the water location to minimize the visibility to and from the neighboring homes. A new garage and workshop is located behind the largest hill, surrounded by existing trees, to minimize its visual impact.
The Client demanded a design which would enhance the natural beauty of the site and environmentally perform with minimal maintenance. The responding design respects the natural features of the site through a minimal intrusion to the excavated footprint. A sense of drama has been created through bridging the house from the site’s natural highest point to its lowest. Four main considerations were taken into account in regard to the sustainable design of the house – local sourcing, materials, lifespan maintenance and energy consumption.
Wherever possible, materials used in the house have been sourced locally within the Gulf islands and British Columbia. Using local timber from BC that is kiln dried & milled locally, hemlock and fir for the interior and alaskan yellow cedar, stone masonry , stainless steel and fiber cement paneling for the exterior. The choice of materials was carefully selected to minimize ongoing maintenance – but more importantly to avoid having to use toxic products, chemicals, paints or stains. The AYC is preserved with an ecologically sensitive natural oil and will otherwise require little maintenance to withstand the relatively harsh ocean front environment. The minimal number of materials used in the project is both an aesthetic as well as a consciously environmental decision to reduce ongoing maintenance or the need to use toxic paints, stains or cleaners for the lifespan of the house. Although the climate in Salt Spring is likely one of the mildest in Canada, solar gain and thermal performance has been considered carefully to minimize the energy consumption necessary to operate the house. The use of multiple zone solar sensors to operate the exterior roller shades allow for the house to be fully glazed but minimize solar heat gain. Large areas of the facade can be opened for ventilation to take advantage of the natural breezes from the sea.
The interior of the house will feature an air-thermal highly efficient combination of air and in-floor radiant heating driven by three high efficiency air-thermal chillers. Ambient lighting will be driven by high efficiency light fixtures, and all appliances and mechanical equipment has been selected for minimal energy usage. Soy based spray foam insulation, without toxic content or toxic leeching has been extensively used, and the septic system has been designed by a leading local engineer with an extensive yet simple filtration system that results in potable water discharging from the system, preventing adverse impact on the local ecology.
The design and organization of the house allows for a refined open plan flow of spaces, with carefully located divisions created through the necessary shear walls to resist seismic forces and provide structural rigidity. Nearly every wall in the house performs a structural task and simultaneously have been carefully positioned to act as spatial dividers. The tightly knit integration of architectural and structural design was only possible through a highly collaborative design process with the engineering consultants. The intent was to create an experience such that when living in the the house, there is a feeling of simplicity, calm and beauty, where the house and landscape are one and the boundaries of inside and outside are blurred. The design of the house is an attempt to make the complex appear simple, representing an intricate and complex balance of aesthetics, emotion, structure, material, landscape and sustainability in a simple and integrated whole.Location: British Columbia, Canada Architecture & Design: RUFproject
Lead: Sean Pearson & Alyssa Schwann Project name: Gulf Islands Residence General Contractor: H.Hazenboom Construction Ltd.
Lead: Hans Hazenboom Structural Engineer: Parallel Consulting Structural Engineers Ltd.
Lead: Bengt Jansson Mechanical Engineer: Jade West Engineering Co. Ltd.
Lead: John Makepeace Geotechnical Engineer: Braun Geotechnical Ltd.
Lead: Sonny Singha