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Linear House by Patkau Architects, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada

[COMMENDATION AR HOUSE 2011] With a fully expressed 8m cantilever, this house set against a line of Douglas fir trees can double up as an open-air pavilion. Photography by James Dow

Consisting of a single range of accommodation 84m long, it’s no surprise to learn that this project is called Linear House. Lines also feature prominently in the organisation of the landscape, with the 6ha site bisected by a prominent row of mature Douglas firs. The trees divide the northern hayfield from the southern orchard on higher ground.

Described by the architect as ‘standing next to the trees’, the house adds to this threshold, while bringing order to a more haphazard cluster of trees and existing agricultural buildings to the south. The north elevation faces the tree belt, through which it offers glimpses of the water beyond. To the south a continuous covered walkway connects all the spaces, with a breezeway dividing the plan roughly into a 1:3 ratio in order to separate principal and guest accommodation.

Clad in a charcoal-coloured fibre-cement panels, the building has a stealth-like, almost invisible appearance when seen against the dark green foliage of the firs. By contrast, the interiors appear luminous, lined in translucent acrylic panels that illuminate the spaces through day and night, filtering natural and artificial light sources.

More than 40 fixed and operable acrylic skylights bring sunlight into the roof and wall assemblies, causing the interior liner to glow softly and irregularly. With up to 24m expanses of full-height retractable glazing and canopies, which cantilever 8m at either end, the house can be opened up during the prolonged fair weather of Salt Spring Island and transformed into an open-air pavilion. It is described by the architect as ‘more shelter than proper house’.

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