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The Gambier Island House is a weekend getaway for young Vancouver couple with two children. Peacefully perched atop a steep rocky cliff along the northeast coast of Gambier Island in British Columbia, its design is a contemporary version of a cabin in the woods, offering the basic pleasures of a modern home, while also touching lightly on the ground to minimize its environmental impact. Gambier functions entirely off the grid and is powered by independent sources for heat and electricity.
Overlooking the wooded waterfront of Howe Sound and adjacent to a protected, forested watershed and private cove, the secluded home is only accessible via the water. Nested into the rugged topography, the remote and difficult access prioritized design solutions with a focus on formal economy and simple details. Design decisions minimized material requirements, specifically the sparse use of concrete and the prefabrication of certain elements offsite, and reduced the number of barge trips required to deliver the construction material and remove waste. This strategy ensured the construction process had the smallest environmental footprint and brought minimum disruption to the landscape.
The hybrid structure and clean design responds both to the rugged qualities of the site and the strict environmental controls related to the shoreline. Two stacked boxes clad in wood, cement board, and insulated glass house three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an open plan kitchen, dining and living area over the two and a half levels.
Throughout, the floors and ceilings are douglas fir, creating warm interior spaces and a cohesive frame from which to take in the sublime views to the sea and mountains beyond, or to cozily nestle into the rocky fir forests. Expansive roof decks seamlessly extend interior and exterior experiences.
Location: Gambier Island, BC, Canada
Type: Residential – Houses
Area: 1,700 sqf
Architects: Project commenced by McFarlane Green Biggar Architecture + Design; completed by Office of McFarlane Biggar Architects + Designers
Principal in Charge: Steve McFarlane
Team: Steve McFarlane, Michelle Biggar, Josie Grant, Michael Green, Tomas Machnikoski, Daniel Marcotte, Lydia Robinson
Photographs: Jean Philippe Delage