Little House

Architect Patkau Architects

Location West Vancouver, British Columbia

The Little House is located in a forested mountainside suburb of Vancouver. The site looks south over the Burrard Inlet Harbour, downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park, English Bay, and the University of British Columbia campus beyond.

A concrete retaining wall carves a volume out of the slope of the site to describe the boundaries of the house. Within this perimeter, the house is organized on three levels, each with a different spatial condition. The lowest level has modest openings in the walls; light is filtered through a pool and glass floor above. This watery, subterranean light marks the entrance spaces of the house; guest room, media room, service rooms, garage, and staff room are also located on this level. A concrete stair rises along the retaining wall at the back of the entry to family spaces on the main level of the house. Space flows horizontally, bounded but barely held by the retaining wall; on this level, the living room, dining room, kitchen, and fitness area are continuous with an exterior court and expand to the south to include panoramic views of the city and ocean below. The stair continues along the retaining wall, rising above the sloping ground to the upper level of the house. This volume, which contains family bedrooms and a study, floats above the site but is strictly bounded by aluminum grilles that screen extensive glazing, providing privacy and mediating the relationship between interior and exterior.

Pale and luminous materials maximize the soft natural light of the region. Within the boundary of the light grey concrete retaining wall, water, glass, white painted interior partitions, bleached wood cabinetry and floors, and aluminum ceilings, soffits, and grilles all cohere to form a diffuse palette.

Ouellette: Compare the plans of the Little House with that of Patkau’s other project. The Art Centre’s plans, while complex are rationalized to comply with its institutional needs. Here, the plan retains more ambiguity in the details–an effect that complements the ordered stratification of spatial elements. In addition to the dynamic plans, its integration with the landscape energizes the house and identifies it as a uniquely Canadian project.

Provencher: What attracts me most to this house is the way the plan is composed and how it perfectly fits the topography of the site. The plan evokes the spirit of jazz music; free in form and style but extremely well structured. One can feel and anticipate the space and experience this project promises, and it is certain to be a fantastic house in which to live.

Taylor: What compelled me about this project is the way in which it engages the site, carving out of it while also hovering above it. The stepping sequence of interior and exterior spaces in section is handled masterfully. The one thing we questioned was the necessity of the jagged articulation of the bedrooms within the larger volume.

Client Brian and Joan Lai

Architect Team John Patkau, Patricia Patkau, Peter Suter, Craig Simms

Structural Ennova Structural Engineers Inc.

Landscape Delta Pacific Landscaping Ltd.

Interiors Patkau Architects

Contractor Pacific Urban Development Corp.

Area 7,477 Ft2

Budget Withheld

Completion Spring 2007