Project: Triangular Courtyard House
Architect of Record & Design Architect: Architecture Building Culture
Location: West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Size: 5,000 sf
Cost: $1.85 million
Photo credits: Andrew Latreille
Text by Architecture Building Culture
2019 Merit Award – Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Award in Architecture, Architectural Foundation of British Columbia
2019 Honor Award, AIA Northwest & Pacific Region Design Awards
2019 Citation Award, AIA Oregon – Portland Architecture Awards
This triangular courtyard house sits at the foot of a granite cliff below a railway line in a densely forested area of West Vancouver. The angular nature of the site and the unusually long street frontage afford the house the freedom to spread wide and low.
Theory and Design Principles
The house consists of two interlocking ‘arms’ placed at right angles to each other. The quieter bedroom arm is raised on columns and extends to the southeast. The more active arm to the west contains the living spaces, the double height entry, the main stair, an office, playroom, and balcony. Together these arms frame two sides of a triangular patio with the third side open to the street.
The Patio Courtyard
The patio is the heart of the house conceptually, geometrically, culturally, and climatically. Large glass sliding doors and a long ribbon of fixed windows separate the patio from the house. It is this boundary where all the action takes place. It is where you enter, access the patio, circulate within the house, and where the breeze and the sun are allowed inside.
The bylaws in this area require all houses to be set back thirty feet from the front boundary. It is normally uncommon for this space to be visually and spatially partnered with the living areas of a house in a way that encourages a positive association with the street.
For this project, however, the patio acts like a traditional front porch, serving as a platform for living between the house and the social space of the street. Living in this house is as much about enjoying a private landscape as a shared one.
The interior of the house is finished in light tones in contrast to the charcoal-coloured shingle exterior that blends the house into the cedar and fir tree backdrop. The white walls and white oak flooring are activated by natural and artificial light and shadows cast by the exterior screens that wrap the balconies and main bedroom’s southern facing floor-to-ceiling windows. The furnishings and indoor plants give the spaces life and colour, and horizontal louvers with varied spacing gently filter light and provide privacy from the street. Large picture windows in the living room, bedrooms and main ensuite provide private views of the surrounding forest and cliff.
Budget, time and quality were all important considerations during design and construction as with most projects. The owner was due to have their first child about the time of completion, and so this constraint provided the team added incentive to have the house completed on time.