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Award of Merit: Saturna Island House

Saturna Island, British Columbia: Peter Cardew Architect. A house on an island responds to specific site conditions to create a dwelling where inhabitants are immersed in their immediate surroundings.

December 1, 2002
by Canadian Architect

Located on a heavily wooded property and accessed from a narrow Gulf Island road that leads to a footpath, this house on Saturna Island, British Columbia, has been designed with a minimal disruption to the existing vegetation. A clearing at the edge of trees accommodates the approach to the water, which is diverted by a long retaining wall above which a roof structure gestures. Beyond the wall, the site drops steeply to the edge of the water, and the constructed landscape formalizes the natural approach to the water across terraces and wild grass steps.

An uninterrupted roof integrates the living, dining, kitchen and study spaces while autonomy is maintained through low walls, between the dining room and the kitchen, and changes in floor level between the study and the kitchen. The roof is tilted up to exploit a predominantly south view, and a skylight in it allows direct sunlight to illuminate a concrete wall draped by the roof.

The combined living and dining area allows for large group gatherings and the study functions as a home office as well. The one main bedroom and two guest rooms are separated from each other by a stair, while an expansive terrace caters to summer living.

Conservation efforts are realized for the site and the house itself. No vehicular road is constructed on site, and a septic trench infiltrator system is used instead of a stone and pipe system, which would require heavy machinery and the cutting of trees and soil compaction. Retaining most trees on the site maintains water levels. The roof takes advantage of the onshore winds that allow cross-ventilation from the south to the north through the operable windows. The siting of the house into the slope takes advantage of the thermal mass properties of the earth for seasonal moderation.

Water conservation is realized with the use of a local well and septic trench to make an off-grid system that reduces the impact of large infrastructure network that would normally depend on greater water needs. High-volume fly-ash concrete and zinc roofing contributes to longevity while regional timber reduces the need for additional finish material.

Erickson: This house displays an admirable mastery of craft to emphasize particular volumes and spaces. Very interesting, if in the end a bit forced.

Fisher: This house shows how to live lightly on the land. Accessible by foot, with solar and geothermal heating and rooftop water collection, the house minimally alters its site. And it does this with a clear, strong architectural idea: a butterfly roof that hovers above a cascade of indoor and outdoor living spaces. The inverted roof ridge, which divides the service rooms along the north and the living and sleeping areas to the south, has an energetic quality and big scale that holds its own in its wild surroundings. We wondered, though, if the roof needed to be quite so complex.

MacDonald: The idea of how this dwelling is intended to structure one’s understanding of the inhabited landscape is immediately apparent. The sequence of entry, the gestures of built form made manifest in both plan and section, and the places of occupation work together to render a clear and compelling sense of place.

Client: name withheld by request

Architect team: Peter Cardew, David Scott, Angie Jim, Robert Grant

Structural: Fast + Epp

Budget: withheld at owner’s request

Completion: December 2003




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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