Award of Merit: Truss House

The Truss House is a 1,750 square foot recreation house situated on a one-acre site on the steeply-sloped side of a valley on Pender Island, British Columbia. In addition to the client’s request for different types of exterior spaces, the house needed to accommodate both gregarious summer visits and more contemplative and longer one-person stays. Four steel columns support two engineered wood box trusses that frame the main 50 x 25 foot upper volume. The main floor framing is supported by two embedded trusses in the walls and tension members from the upper cantilever support the floor of the louvered two-storey eating/sleeping balcony. A double skin acts as a diaphragm for the entire framing. The main exterior living space is situated opposite to, and is sheltered by, an enormous arbutus tree while a major rock outcropping, emblematic of the geographic region, is framed by an aperture in the deck.

Two stacked service cores provide structural rigidity and allow for spatial fluidity and a centrifugal movement that connects interior to exterior. Vertical circulation, concentrated along the exterior walls, also contributes to the connectivity. Three data on the site are addressed in sections. The upper, more contained volume frames the distant view of the ocean while on three sides the section of the ground floor creates a horizontal fame of the vertical tree trunks through clerestory windows and louvered skin. On the fourth side facing the Arbutus tree the section opens to engage the immediate ground cover: rock, bark, moss, water and earth.

In its technical development, engineered wood products were engaged with low-cost technology for the fabrication of trusses, which evolved from the standard truss joist to box beam technology where the rigidity of the truss is dependent on the number of skins in the assembly. The trusses then developed to become the entire wall. The efficiency of the truss is increased by cantilevering the two ends. Finally, the universal engineering principles of the truss are utilized to explore material and spatial transformations that engage different site and environmental conditions.

Erickson: This project represents an assiduous study in the logic of simple wood frame and plywood methods of construction.

Fisher: This house as an “inhabited truss” offers an elegant solution to a difficult site. Barely touching the ground, while providing directed views to the ocean and privacy from adjacent houses, the structure has interpenetrating spaces and cantilevered decks that recall the literal and phenomenal transparency of early Modern architecture. Inside, the compact service cores and multi-purpose spaces also recall the best of the International Style. The somewhat elusive presentation made it hard to get a sense of what the house would look like, but the evocative night views and the rigour and clarity of its idea won us over.

MacDonald: I appreciate this project because of the clear fit between view framing, structure and the building/site relationship strategies. The box structure marshals its energy intelligently to minimize contact with the ground, while framing an ideal view. One’s experience of the dynamic site character is enhanced by the neutrality of the frames through which they are viewed.

Client: Tom Jurenka

Architect team: Marc Boutin, Dave Goulden, Tony Leong, Alex Percy.

Structural: C. Y. Loh and Associates

Landscape: Archifolia

Digital and Graphic Design: ID8 Design Group

Photography: ID8 Design Group

Budget: withheld at owner’s request

Completion: 2004