When Eric Peterson and Christina Munck invited Vancouver, B.C.–based Patkau Architects to help them place their new home on a cliffside site on nearby Quadra Island, the team, as the designers of the new structure, didn’t cut themselves any slack. Accessed via a road that wends through a forest of fir and maple trees, and atop an uneven, moss-covered basalt outcropping 44 feet above a windswept beach, the site boasts a view across the water to mainland British Columbia. “That single panoramic expanse and view is one of the things you notice most immediately about the site,” says David Shone, a principal at Patkau and the project architect for the Tula House.
In order to take full advantage of the view, the architects chose to position the house at the edge of, and cantilevering out from, the bluff. But they didn’t want to give the game away too quickly: A glass-lined entrance courtyard is enveloped by the C-shaped, 4,500-square-foot structure, and offers only glimpses of the view beyond. From the carport, visitors are funneled down a long concrete-lined corridor, and it is only upon reaching the living area that the expansive view is revealed, through a long ribbon of glazing that lines the oceanfront side. The view is unobstructed by columns or thick mullions—the result of the floor and ceiling planes being independently cantilevered. A cast-concrete floor, intended to read as an extension of the rock face, transitions to wood to denote the point at which visitors leave terra firma and walk onto the cantilever.
But while it is certainly the most dramatic, the ocean vista is not the only view in the home. “It’s actually a very complex site,” Shone says, noting that the firm referred to it as a “five-site house.” The glazed courtyard captures views of the surrounding forest, low windows in the master bedroom frame a mossy rock wall, a glazed panel in the cantilevered floor section looks down over the driftwood-strewn beach, and thin skylights in the linear wood-batten ceiling showcase the tree canopy and sky beyond.
Achieving the level of design rigor and structural bravura showcased in elements such as floating concrete walls was not easy to achieve on the remote site, and a building boom in Vancouver kept most of the construction crews that Patkau would normally use busy on the mainland. The architects turned to a local construction crew that had, until this project, never worked with exposed architectural concrete. “They developed techniques onsite and rigged up interesting scaffolds and carts to roll up the large pieces of glass,” Shone says. Any doubts were quickly erased as the project developed, and the level of intended detail was reached. “In hindsight, they really were the right people to build the project,” Shone says. “They are very good craftsmen.”
Project Tula House, Quadra Island, British Columbia, Canada
Client Eric Peterson and Christina Munck
Architect Patkau Architects, Vancouver, British Columbia—John Patkau, AIA, Patricia Patkau, Hon. FAIA, David Shone, Mike Green, Dimitri Koubatis, Greg Boothroyd, James Eidse, Marc Holland, Tony Mah, Henry Murdock, Ben Raimes, Thomas Schroeder, Craig Simms, and Tony Wai (project team)
Structural Engineer Peterson Galloway
Mechanical Engineer Hirschfield Williams Timmins
Contractor J Toelle Construction—Guy Holmes (site superintendent)
Size 4,500 square feet