Canadian Architect

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Award of Merit: Banser Residence and Family Retreat

On Vancouver Island, a family retreat takes ecologically-responsible design approaches as seriously as the need for private and shared spaces.

December 1, 2003
by Canadian Architect

Metchosin, Vancouver Island, British Columbia
id a* Architecture

The site, a 67-acre parcel located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island and facing the Strait of Juan de Fuca, is in a rural community 30 minutes’ drive west of Victoria. The waterfront is a stretch of loose cobble beach that ends with a series of rock outcrop headlands. Zoned as an agricultural land reserve, the middle of the site is used for hay cultivation and sheep grazing. The eastern portion of the site is forested with mature stands of Douglas fir while the southern and western perimeters are grasslands beneath Garry Oak groves. The landscape slopes to the southeast, interspersed with rock outcrops.

The architects sought to develop reciprocity with the landscape on the part of the clients, and to underscore the importance of the interrelationships between the clients and their extended family. As such, the design began as an idea about movement through the landscape connecting two spaces that are significant for the clients: the open beach/ocean space at the bottom of the draw, and a place on the knoll under a tree. These saw the progression of spaces and program organized along a “line” moving from the open, social spaces to the enclosed private spaces finding their theoretical limits at either end in the sublime and the intimate, respectively.

The plan is organized along axes of east/west and north/south with the latter dividing the guest house from the main house. The rooms on the open south side are arranged enfilade flowing spatially one to the next, including the indoor and outdoor spaces and the terrace connected with single hung glass walls that open upward. To the north, the rooms are arranged along connecting corridors, defining enclosed and distinct spaces. An infrastructural and mysterious gap, neither architectural nor part of the landscape, contains the hydrothermal spent water on its return to the ocean and becomes a site of synthesis in the project, a kind of heart of the building.

Indigenous Garry Oak is preserved and thus eliminates the need for typical pesticide treatments for recreational landscapes. An open ocean source hydrothermal radiant heating system reduces power consumption through the use of heat pumps that provide in-floor and in-wall radiant heating or cooling, heat the swimming pool and preheat the domestic hot water for the main house. Groundwater quality and hydrological flow are preserved with pier foundations, with optimal orientation and location and the shedding of roof drainage onto the ground surface.

Locally produced fir lumber and fir products are used for formwork, framing, windows, doors and rafters and locally manufactured mineral wool is used for insulation. Locally quarried stone is used for interior wall cladding and terrace pavers. Water based stains, sealers and clear-coats largely replace VOCs, while rigid foam and its off-gassing is replaced with mineral wool insulation.

Boutin: This house design opens the debate as to how architecture can potentially occupy a site. Clearly, the scale of the design offers new perspectives in terms of ordering its surroundings, with the term of infrastructure coming to mind. The programming of the concrete spine, however, seems to lose much of the initial promise embedded in the primary gesture, with much of the program relegated to the single-loaded corridor experience.

Rosenberg: This project is a model for how to construct a building in a sensitive environment in the least intrusive yet responsive way. They are to be commended for the lengths they have gone through to preserve the dramatic qualities of the site and for designing a building that comes out of the land.

Sherman: Despite Marc’s vehement beliefs to the contrary, I believe this house (the only house to win an award, surprisingly) was one of the strongest projects of the bunch. The way in which the aqueduct/lap pool is used as an intermediary design element to “splint” the house together with the landscape is remarkable for its unexpected urbanity/ density of the massing, rather than its extension, as we saw in most of the houses we looked at. It also sets up a wonderful interplay of sightlines between the two parallel legs of the house. I think that the reflections of the light off of the water and up onto the ceilings of the house would strongly characterize the experience of its spaces. My one bone to pick with the author is that the pitched roofs should certainly have been pitched inward rather than outward(!), so that the rainwater could have been collected in the lap pool rather than blithely discarded, and so the house would have appeared more urban from without.

Client: Ed and Dorothy Banser

Architect: id a* Architecture

Architect team: Marko Simcic, Brian Broster

Landscape: id a* Landscape Design, Maureen Smith

Drawing Assistant: Don Kasko

Structural: Equilibrium Consulting Inc.

Mechanical: Earth Tech Canada

Electrical: Schenke/Bawol Engineering Ltd.

Costing: BTY Group

Arbourist: Dogwood Tree Services

Agrologist: Robert Maxwell

Contractor: Bill Hustler Construction Ltd.

Area: 4,300 sq. ft. main house; 3,000 sq. ft. guest house; 1,600 sq. ft. boat house

Budget: withheld by request

Completion: 2004




Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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