Maurer House

Architect Florian Maurer Architect

Location Naramata, British Columbia

This residence was designed for the architect and his wife, a professional couple without children. Moderate space requirements and a desire for openness reflect their love of the outdoors, nature and gardening. The design responds directly and simply to the local climate and demonstrates rigourous unity of structure and finish, of form and content. In its airy elegance and mature use of technology and resources, it makes an important ecological and artistic statement.

The site is populated by several mature Ponderosa pines and is surrounded by numerous orchards, vineyards and residential plots in the South Okanagan region, a semi-arid area with hot dry summers and moderate cloudy winters. The half-acre lot rises gently to a bedrock outcrop, where it starts to drop steeply to the west with splendid views of Okanagan Lake.

Sustainability concerns drove the design of the residence. During the construction process, the existing bedrock became part of the design strategy, and all trees were maintained with no site remodelling taking place. No erosion was observed in heavy rains during and after construction. Local and drought-resistant species were used for further landscaping, while rainwater is used for irrigation of the western slope.

The 1,850-square-foot building program includes a small garage and studio, with privacy being a primary objective. Instead of a single structure in the centre of the lot, four separate buildings wrap themselves around a central garden. Straddling the bedrock, the main building offers a choice of dramatic views to the west and the tranquility of the garden and pines to the east.

The formal and functional simplicity of the residence is apparent in several features. The glulam structure doubles as glazing support, and the spacing of structural elements achieves maximum glazing economy and avoids a secondary roof structure. High-quality and efficient building systems were utilized along with durable exterior finishes appropriate for the climate–Italian tile flooring, metal cladding and roofing, state-of-the-art low-E glazing. Single-slope shed roofs, generous overhangs, and standardized detailing were additional features that kept costs down to a modest $225,000.

Furthermore, the siting, size, choice and arrangement of building components work together to reduce heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter. An air-conditioning system was not required through the provision ample ventilation via two large opposing lift-and-slide glass doors that allow lake breeze to flow through the residence. The project’s convincing economies offer a valuable contribution to promote environmental sustainability, common sense and restraint.

Peter Busby: We saw many beautiful and indulgent houses. What struck us about this one that made it worthy of an award was its modesty and clarity. There is a strong relationship to the West Coast modernist housing lineage–dating back through Erickson and Ron Thom–focusing on the unification of nature and building, in the materiality and in sustainable design achievements. And he built it himself!

Client Erika Maurer

Architect Team Florian Maurer

Structural Fast + Epp

Builder Florian Maurer

Area 1,850 Ft2

Budget $225,000

Completion Summer 2004

Photography Florian Maurer, Stuart Bish