Award of Merit: Gordon Shrum Guest House

This project for a 3,000 square foot guest house in Vancouver’s historic Shaughnessy neighbourhood will be the first of a three-phase residential enclave designed for a semi-retired lawyer. The guest house will be built after stables are removed to be a temporary residence for the owner while an existing building is moved to the eastern portion of the site in the second phase and the main house to the north of the site is to be constructed in the third phase.

To preserve the historic integrity of both the neighbourhood and the nearby Rosemary, a Tudor heritage building, the guest house was conceived as a “non-building” of very simple cubic volumes defined by landscaping and glass, and a minimum of exposed solid structure. The house is set low to the ground to allow views to the future main house as well as sun penetration to its lawn area. Roof planting and tall trees help the building blend into the existing landscape and lessen the visual impact of the view from the Rosemary. Thus a unique sense of place is maintained through an architectural strategy and to realize the idea that one lives in an historic continuum; that the passage of time and one’s relation to it are important aspects of an experience of a place or city.

Erickson: The architects have articulated a sensitive solution to the perennial problem of designing a spanking new structure in a traditionally articulated neighbourhood. For instance, impressive trays of planting are used in lieu of efforts to simulate a Victorian model.

Fisher: Fitting new buildings into historic contexts usually breeds a lot of bad mimicry, but not here. This guest house, replacing a former garden and stable behind a heritage structure, manages to be modern and unobtrusive at the same time. By sinking the main living spaces partly below grade, planting the flat roof as an elevated garden, and enclosing a second-storey bedroom and office behind a new “garden wall,” the designers have created a building that is at once a pavilion in the landscape and the landscape itself. Our only reservation had to do with its somewhat fussy details involving unfolding.

MacDonald: This project received an Award of Merit in spite of its touted narrative-inspired logic. The narrative, its resultant hinges and other formal pre-occupations actually work against what otherwise appears to be an inspired, intuitive proposition. A house in the ground has many positive attributes. The problem with this scheme is that its author’s awareness seems out of step with its real potential.

Client: Gordon Shrum

Architect team: Richard Henriquez, Rui Nunes, Brock Cheadle, Jaime Dejo, May So, Fred Markowsky

Structural: C.Y. Loh & Associates

Mechanical/Electrical: Stantec Consulting Ltd.

Landscape: Perry + Associates

Budget: $2 million

Completion: March 2003