The owners of a small island asked us to design a cabin for them to escape to at any time of the year. The problem was that the island had no power or water and the rocky bluffs surrounding it were barely climbable. To make it even more difficult, the island is battered by high north winds that blow down the inlet all winter.
Construction started with the blasting of a tunnel up through the island from the base of a cliff. After that was completed, most of the materials for the house were brought by land across the gravel causeway at low tide, and then up the tunnel. The remainder were craned from barges to a landing pad just below the house site. In this photograph the top of the roof of the house is just visible, directly above the tunnel. To the left is a wind turbine which supplements the house’s solar electric system.
By the time visitors have made it across the water and up the tunnel, their presence is already known so there is no need to have a conventional front door -- which is good because there isn’t anywhere to put one. Instead visitors arrive on a terrace that extends directly into the house through a glass wall surrounded by heavy timber columns and skewed beams.
The house is made almost entirely of natural materials that suit the rugged nature of the island. The heavy timber columns and beams run wildly at angles to each other but are precisely pinned together without bolts in an abstracted version of the logs that pile up on the beach below after storms. The timber rafters and wood window frames echo the branches and trunks of the surrounding trees. The sandblasted concrete pavers merge with the rocky bluff that the house nestles behind, out of the path of the high winter winds.
Even though the house expresses the powerful forces of nature around it, there is also a soft and gentle relationship with the landscape which makes the house comfortable to live in throughout the year.
A the centre of the house is a massive fireplace which rises up through the wall of glass above. The roof is tilted so that late afternoon sunlight coming over the top of the hill will hit the wood ceiling and fill the room below with warm light. As we do with every house, the scale of each piece of furniture was established during the design process so that the end result would be integrated and comfortable.