August 22, 2014
by Canadian Architect
Recently published by TUNS Press, the book on the work of Vancouver-based architects BattersbyHowat was highlighted in the 2014 Coupe International Design and Image Annual. A jury, which consisted of Louis Gagnon, Graham Roumieu and Bill Douglas, reviewed submissions from around the world. BattersbyHowat, edited by Brian Carter and designed by Burnkit, received a “Complete Book Design Award.”
The following is a review by Courtney Healey in the November 2013 issue of Canadian Architect:
The latest installment from Tuns Press’s series Architectural Signatures Canada presents a selection of recent work from Vancouver-based BattersbyHowat Architects. The practice headed by Heather Howat and David Battersby is somewhat of a rarity–having garnered much critical and popular acclaim for their residential work, the partners only became licensed in 2010–a full 14 years after founding their firm. The timing then, of this slim grey volume, necessarily infuses it with intent. In short, to help propel this duo to the next stage of their career which, according to the contributors, means more varied and more public commissions.
First and foremost, the monograph is a modest, matter-of-fact survey of 10 West Coast residential projects (nine built and one unbuilt) completed between 2004 and 2011. Each house is showcased, through drawings and photographs, across about a half-dozen pages. Over the course of their career, BattersbyHowat has helped usher in a sort of new contemporary vernacular–you can’t walk down a street in Vancouver without encountering the most sincerest forms of flattery, but these pale in comparison to the work illustrated here. Every site is carefully introduced, whether remote panoramic landscape or tight urban lot, and the character of each building emerges through a series of carefully composed moments. With each page turned the work becomes increasingly confident; the houses become larger and more deftly executed. Bold angular forms are tempered with wrappers made of thin wood slats; articulated compositions of mass and void are highlighted by spare material juxtapositions.
Christine Macy, Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at Dalhousie University, provides the origin story via David and Heather’s respective theses at Dalhousie in the mid-’90s. Christopher Macdonald, Professor at UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, surrounds their recent work with discussions on landscape and the artifice of design, a certain propensity for “deep thresholds” or “attenuated arrival” and the variously “firm, commodious, and delightful” attributes of their work. The book’s editor, Brian Carter, includes a postscript page illustrating a new project, noteworthy both for its more varied and public nature and for having won a 2012 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence. This, the UBC Geological Field School, a 10-building complex on 80 acres in the South Okanagan, concludes the monograph and gently ushers BattersbyHowat into a future full of public purpose. We, the readers, patiently await this future.
Courtney Healey is the Director of Lodge Think Tank and an intern architect at Public Architecture + Communication.