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Smith House

Smith House
Parksville BC
2005-2007
2800 SF


The form of this house for a retired couple is a direct response to the site's fortunate/unfortunate location, sandwiched between a repetitive suburban housing development and a natural forest, with a view to the ocean glimmering in between.

The house's parti is simple: the house acts as its own "fence" on the south elevation, carved with clerestory windows for ambient natural light. This stucco fence/wall runs the length of the site, terminating as a chunky garage mass. Interior and exterior spaces are bookended by an opposing stucco mass at the entry.

This elongated house exploits the maximum allowable setbacks for the long property, absorbing most of the site within the domain of the house, creating an exaggerated sense of horizontality and expansiveness. This contrasts with neighbouring houses, where the expansiveness is poorly defined and largely unused.

Exterior walls support a framework of glulam beams that move in and out of the building envelope; this superimposed frame is then eroded, intentionally not aligning with interior and exterior spaces to literally blur the definition between exterior and interior spaces. All of the house's building components are detailed so they can be read in isolation from each other, creating a collection of sculptural elements that define space. Wood cabinetry and storage areas float within the loosely defined interior spaces as pods, in lieu of spaces defined by drywall partitions.

This house emphatically articulates a desire to make buildings that are critical and contextual. The house's scale and earth-toned materiality let it recede into an indifferent suburban setting. But it shares its situation reluctantly, offering an alternative approach to land-use, siting and privacy. The project will complete the cul-de-sac with a tangible weightiness, in contrast to the flimsiness of the immediate built environment.