Located twelve miles south of Whistler, Black Tusk is a residence for an artist and project manager, who wanted a modern materially expressive aesthetic informed by the particularity of its place, the alpine climate and local material culture.
The site lies in a forest clearing at the edge of a seasonal marsh with a dramatic view of the Garibaldi Mountain Range and the distinctive and immediately identifiable extinct volcanic peak of Black Tusk. The alpine climate is characterized by hot arid summer months, to heavy rainfall in spring and fall and a deep snow pack in the winter. The flora and fauna of the marsh varies seasonally, as the wetlands expands in the rainy season and contracts in the hot dry summer.
Conceptually, the residence acts as a transition between the forest and marsh. The structure rests on a bedrock swale nestled between trees and rock outcrops. The house is configured as two parallel forms offset in plan to create a sheltered forest side entry with an open plan arrangement of living spaces oriented to the marsh and the views. Two archetypal material systems are used: heavy grounded elements consisting of a polished concrete floor slab and concrete masonry block walls anchor the structure to the site with lighter wood frame elements consisting of Douglas fir glulams, purlins, and hemlock decking on the upper storey.
The block walls are freestanding planes separated by glass, either as narrow slits for privacy or as large panels to take full advantage of the views. A continuous band of floor-to-ceiling glass wrap the living areas and a generous terrace gives the space a feeling of openness and connectedness to the landscape. The wall construction consists of a double wythe of block with a spray-applied insulated cavity. This economical and energy efficient wall system requires minimal maintenance and offers unparalleled durability, longevity and an effective barrier to moisture. The high thermal mass of the concrete floor and insulated block walls provides very effective thermal storage that reduces peak heating and cooling loads and moderates indoor temperature swings. The block is left natural providing both the exterior and interior wall finish.
The heavy snow loads required a very robust roof structure. A simple triangular-frame comprised of Douglas fir glulams forms the roof and second floor structure. The hemlock deck platform is left exposed with natural finish, to darken to a rich patina, over time. The wood structure floats above the block walls separated by continuous narrow ribbon of glass. The roof form echoes the jagged peaks of the Garibaldi Range and Black Tusk and its taut standing seam metal roofing gives the structure a tent-like quality.
The structural triangular frame is expressed with a full panel of glass at the vaulted two-storey living space and the painting studio. In keeping with the modernist design philosophy of the owner-artist, the studio glass wall is an abstract composition of lines and shapes of coloured, textured, opaque and clear glass panels.
A limited palette of locally sourced materials is used with a directness of expression and attention to the craft of construction. Structural elements and connections are visually expressed and materials left with a natural finish. The elevations are pared down to their simplest representation devoid of unnecessary decoration.
The residence has a modern materially expressive aesthetic informed by the particularity of the site, its climatic and natural characteristics, and the material culture of the region. The unique qualities of its place, light and materials are intertwined in an experience that enriches the rituals of daily life for its inhabitants.
Project Architect, Jerry Doll. NSDA Architects. Vancouver.