This 5,000 sq ft award-winning home designed by Patkau Architects, Canada, is located on a difficult wedge-shaped site. With the jagged asymmetry of its futuristic aesthetic, the snow-country house in British Columbia resonates with the landscape, while amplifying the character of the site itself.
‘A normal house but with no curves or circular forms,’ said the client brief. One, which the architects took rather seriously. In avoiding the forbidden curves, Hadaway House, as this home is called, breaks the rules with aplomb…in several ways, as we will see.
Mountain homes have long recalled Swiss chalets, log cabins and back-to-nature rusticity. For obvious reasons, the carbon footprint was small, much before ecological considerations became fashionable. Locally sourced materials (such as timber and stone), and an efficient integration of material and form, built to withstand severe snow loads and wind exposure, was mandatory.
In a departure from the norm, Patkau Architects have made rather spectacular use of steel and glass, with the peaks and shards of the elevation being conducive to interpretation as architectural metaphors for the mountain terrain which the house occupies.
The mid-20th century saw architects such as Marcel Breuer and Richard Neutra begin to introduce large expanses of glass as well as sophisticated structural elements – including the cantilever – so that mountain architecture could engage with the site in unprecedentedly dramatic ways. Patkau architects have taken this several leaps further. Check one, for breaking the rules.
Says John Patkau, “Construction is hybrid. The slabs and walls which enclose the lower floor are concrete construction while the uppermost levels are a composite steel and heavy timber structure with wood-frame infill. The entire structure is sheathed with a monolithic screen of open-spaced 2ft x 6 ft cedar boards over conventional roof and wall assemblies.
He continues, “The thermal mass of the lower concrete structure dampens temperature swings within the house in summer and winter. In summer the interior is naturally cooled and ventilated by drawing air from the lowest level on the north side of the house to vent at the top of the central rift.”
Now let’s come to the Golden Rectangle, revered and enshrined since the time of the ancient Greeks. With an undisputed sanctity in structures worldwide, few have deviated from its diktats. In the recent past, De-constructivist architecture such as that of Daniel Libeskind has been an exception.
And now, we have Hadaway House, which is an unabashed delight in irregularly shaped spaces. Walls, ceilings and windows are all subject to jagged shards and facets, but with a pristine sculpturesque beauty which holds its own.
Are all the rooms irregular in shape and many of the walls off plumb? “Yes. The locals call it ‘Origami House’,” says John. Is it unsettling for the users, to move away from the calm of standard rectangular spaces? “Not at all,” he says, “the interiors are dynamic, luminous spaces without unnecessary articulation.”
Denying any Deconstructivist leanings, he adds, “The form of Hadaway house is driven by the constraints of the zoning, the slope of the site and the enormous annual accumulation of snow, which needs to be shed into appropriate storage areas.” Check two for breaking the rules.
Say the architects, “The main level is essentially one large space with living, dining and kitchen areas and an outdoor deck – all of which open up to the valley view.
A vertical crevice of space runs under the highest roof ridge, bisecting the warped volume and bringing light to the deepest part of the section and plan. Stairs rise within this rift and a bridge crosses it at the upper level connecting the master bedroom suite and study.
On the lowest level, are the more intimate spaces, housing guest bedrooms and a second living area, as well as a large service space. Accessible directly from the garage entrance to the house, the service space supports life in snow country where wet clothes are hung to dry or thrown directly into the laundry; where skiers can store all the paraphernalia of their day outside.
Now, for the third departure from the norm. Traditionally, entrances have been accorded special treatment, to provide a sense of ‘arrival’ and to proclaim status. “The site is a difficult wedge shape which offers just enough room for a garage and narrow entrance on the street side at the top of the slope,” discloses John.
This has resulted in a rather inconspicuous, easy-to-miss entrance, overshadowed by the breath-taking presence of the house itself, which looms large. Check three for Hadaway House.
Fourthly, who would dispute that colour and art are the dance partners of architecture? But supremely confident of its own sculpturesque presence, Hadaway House eshews the support of these two stalwarts, famed for adding ‘soul’ to spaces. In this exceptional space, there is no colour and no art. Check four for Hadaway House.
So what exactly does this structure do, which is so special? That it celebrates technology in an excruciatingly complex way is evident at one glance.
This is not simply regionalism in the sense of vernacular architecture. It is a progressive approach to design that seeks to mediate between the global and the local languages of architecture.
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs James Dow and Patkau Architects