26.9.2018

Point House

Point House is a small project with a big address. It is surrounded by water on three sides, on a 45 foot wide lot that was historically a small inshore fishing port.

It is a proto-urban project which suggests the making of a village. This project was designed for two doctors with a passion for sea kayaking. Together, two buildings comprise their private summer residence: the main house and the guest house, which provides storage for their kayaks. Half of the architectural experience is getting there. One approaches along a dirt road between two, mute, shingled ‘fish shacks’, then up an ambitious timber stair onto a generous terrace. You enter the main house under an illuminated entry ‘bite’, past a black kitchen box and into a double height great room. From here, one’s view is drawn out through the south corner window to the sea.

The wood shingles and gabled roof forms present a traditional north face to the public, whereas the more private south face presents a modern curtain wall glass pavilion. These floating, iconic forms are raised on concrete fin-foundations which reach out to embrace courtyards; one for parking and one for sitting out. On the interior, a set of black, steel totemic elements anchor the experience of dwelling in the landscape: a monumental truss and a hearth which sits on a 28 foot plinth that becomes a folded steel stair ribbon leading to the sleeping loft.

In Atlantic Canada there is a cool, labile climate, characterized by constant wet/dry, freeze/thaw cycles, resulting in a very high weathering rate for buildings. Over the centuries an elegant, economical lightweight wood building tradition has been developed in response to this challenging climate. The light timber frame has become the dominant domestic construction system in North America. The research of this practice, however, builds upon and extends this often understated, everyday language of construction, through projects like Point House.

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Eastern white cedar shingles on a ventilated rain screen wrap both the roof and the walls alike and embody the monolithic nature of the vernacular fish shacks that dot the Atlantic coast. Point House employs the elegance of the light timber frame, which is a uniquely renewable resource with its minimal embodied energy. The ‘outsulation’ strategy allows the conventional wood framing system to be expressed on the interior, avoiding the need for interior finishes, and the problems typically associated with condensation in insulated wall cavities. One monumental wind truss carries wind loads into the concrete fins below. These elevate the building off the ground and allow for tidal surges to flow underneath, leaving it unscathed, while also reducing its impact on the coastal site.

The discipline of listening to ‘place’ (climate, geomorphology, material culture) allows for an understated architecture that gains its power by resonating with its environment. Regional material culture is drawn upon for its inherent wisdom that translates directly into longer-lived buildings, such as the use of wood shingles that are preserved by the salt air. The House is a simple, conventional, taut-skinned gable that illustrates on many levels the ethos of this practice.

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