Oak Bay BC
This quiet, low-slung house has a concept that is potently singular: Since the site is oriented east – west, southern light is concentrated against the side of the house. This house celebrates its sideways orientation with highly sculpted cross sections, where two continuous clerestory roof monitors bathe every interior space with warm light.
The generic suburban language of double car garages, front room windows, chimneys and dominant rooflines was abstracted, and then reassembled with substance. These elements are composed into a cloistered house, tuned to the client’s quirky sleeping schedules and hobbies, health, the microclimate of the site and the material culture of Victoria’s capital region.
A mature Garry Oak meadow on the eastern half of the site is an irreplaceable and endangered asset. The new house nestles between the existing trees, without harming any of them.
The exterior of the house re-works common red bricks used around Oak Bay and Victoria since the late 1800’s. Crushed recycled bricks will be mixed into the house’s stucco, to create a tough red-oxide exterior shell.
Starting with the plan, the veneer of generic stucco-finished wood frame construction becomes highly plastic. Through sculpting, the exterior shell of the house has solidity and a sense of permanence. The house’s windows and doors are deeply recessed, to protect them from the rain. At the south side-yard these recesses increase their room’s privacy and intimacy, with windows like an archer’s arrow-slits in a castle wall. On the north side-yard, a home office is the only interior space allowed to protrude beyond the exterior shell. This space’s north light is ideal for computer use, when this mini-observatory is not being used to keep an eye on the workshop, front yard, and path to the pool. Minor moments of surprise animate the interior, with human scaled curved niches sprinkled throughout the plan and a secret master bathroom courtyard.
SCULPTED CROSS SECTION
With the pragmatism of a farmer, the simple gesture of letting as much south light as possible into the house creates experiential delight, sculptural spaces and a strong connection with the seasons. Moving through the house, the outlook and spatial variety is felt laterally, towards the central courtyard or inside the curved glowing ceilings. The house’s short cross sections are a critical response to the suburban house typology’s tendency to under-develop sloped attic spaces, defaulting to flat interior ceilings; this muffled spatial quality is a by-product of the wide-spread use of prefabricated wood trusses, which create non-habitable attic spaces, and inhibit vaulted ceilings. This house exploits this same prefabricated truss technology, but manipulates it to create the house’s concept.
A wood entry bridge and stair connects the house’s two branches. The sound of walking across the bridge or down the wood stair acoustically emphasizes this zone as a transitory hinge space, disconnected from the concrete flooring of the north and south branches. By using a ubiquitous sliding patio door as the house’s entry, arrival is transparent and humble.