Two Hulls House

ARCHITECT MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited
LOCATION Port Mouton, Nova Scotia

This project is situated in a glaciated, coastal landscape with a cool maritime climate. The geomorphology of the site consists of granite bedrock and boulder till, creating pristine white sand beaches and turquoise waters. The two pavilions float above the shoreline like the hulls of two ships up on cradles for the winter, forming protected outdoor places both between and under them. This is a landscape-viewing instrument–like a pair of binoculars, first looking out to sea. A third transverse “eye” looks down the coastline, and forms a linking entry piece. A concrete seawall on the foreshore protects the house from rogue waves. 

This is a full-time home for a family of four, consisting of a “day pavilion” and a “night pavilion.” One approaches from the understated land side between the abstract, library ends of the two pavilions, then passing through toward the sea–or left into the living pavilion, or right into the sleeping pavilion. One structure contains a central core, while the other contains a side core. The seaward ends of the two main forms (living and master bedroom) delaminate, creating protected outdoor porches or night-time “lanterns” over the water. The third linking form contains the generous entry foyer, core, and the kitchen. The great room contains a floating 24-foot totemic hearth. The house remains a fertile research vehicle in the education of an architect.

This is a steel-frame house with a wood skin. Its white steel endoskeleton resists both gravity loads and wind uplift. The 32-foot cantilevers and concrete-fin foundations invite the sea to pass under without damage. The wooden rain screen consists of 8-inch vertical board-on-batten on the two “hulls,” while the linking piece is a monolithic block of weathered wood inside and out, clad in 4-inch horizontal shiplap. The lantern ends dematerialize by eliminating the 1-inch channel joints. The fenestration of the “binocular” ends is minimalist curtain wall with structural silicone, while the side elevations contain storefront glazing. The concrete floors contain a geothermally heated hydronic system. This sculptural yet calm and mature project contains generous white volumes on the interior, and exhibits the ironic monumentality of boats on the exterior.

WF A pair of crafted spatial armatures, lofted above the smooth undulating stone shoreline. A finely calibrated response to site with a material palette that speaks to its nautical roots. 

DN Very strong in its execution with a unified material palette. The Two Hulls House has a simplicity, rigour of scale and detailing that stands perhaps in contrast to the refined and very fine work of Ian MacDonald. The residence sits or, it seems, balances on the landscape, and the way the cladding wraps around the exterior unifies the composition, while on the interior there seems to be a sense of contrasting lightness created by the light, colour and expansive views of the exterior. 

PS The familiar discipline that articulates the authorship of this work is, as always, formidable. The work is clearly presented, beautifully drawn, and the submission demonstrates that the project can be built to the same standards of excellence. Two Hulls reveals to me what many of us cannot afford to lose sight of, and that is that the built work has to be as relentless in its pursuit of excellence as the first sketch. Here, the early sketches promise a commitment to technical simplicity and they expose a confidence of knowledge in construction and its procedures. As the work advances into construction, it becomes evident that an honest regard for the autodidactic capacity of the making itself is present here. It has the ability to stir the master builder aching for attention in many of us.

CLIENT withheld
ARCHITECT TEAM Brian MacKay-Lyons, Talbot Sweetapple, Kevin Reid, David Bourque, Omar Gandhi, Sawa Rostkowska, Jordan Rice
STRUCTURAL Campbell Comeau Engineering Limited
INTERIORS MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited
CONTRACTOR Delmar Construction
PRESENTATION Rimon Soliman, Marc Holland, Piotr Kolodziej, Peter Braithwaite
PHOTOGRAPHER Greg Richardson
AREA 3,360 ft2
BUDGET withheld
COMPLETION December 2011