Linear House by Patkau Architects

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Location: Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada
Area: 340 m2
Dates: 2009

2012 – Governor General’s Medal in Architecture
2012 – Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Merit Award
2012 – Canadian Wood Council Honour Award
2011 – AZ Award for Design Excellence, Residential Architecture

Architect: Patkau Architects Inc.

Project Team: John Patkau, Patricia Patkau with Peter Suter, Greg Boothroyd, Marc Holland, Christina Gray, Steffen Knab, Hiro Kurozumi, and Renee Martin


Photos: James Dow / Patkau Architects

Linear House is located on a sixteen acre farm on Salt Spring Island, an island in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. The property is bisected from east to west by a long row of mature Douglas fir trees. There is a gentle slope falling across the site from south to north. The south half of the site is an orchard containing a variety of fruit trees; the north half of the property is a hay field. There was an existing cottage on the property which has been sold and relocated to a neighbouring property. The existing barn, garage and studio buildings remain.

The row of large Douglas fir trees is unusually situated, bisecting the farm. It stabilizes experience in that it provides a place to stand, to be ‘next to’, to locate position in the open fields. The trees themselves are textural, old, torn and windswept. They hold our attention and make us realize the time of the site, its existence over many, many years. They have a kind of old heart. The impulse to site the new house next to these figures was both intuitive and immediate.

The new house slips into a narrow space between the line of existing fir trees to the north and several pockets of existing trees to the south. It extends 276 feet in a straight line along the south side of the fir trees. One side of the house faces the line of trees and water view beyond. On the opposite side a continuous covered walkway slides past the pockets of existing trees, edging an adjacent fruit orchard. The orchard has been made more regular with additional fruit trees, to reinforce the juxtaposition between the cultural landscape of fruit trees to the south, and the line of native fir trees to the north of the new house. The full extent of the house is never directly experienced from the exterior. That experience is of a dark stealth-like figure sliding in and out behind the screens of trees on either side. At a parting of the trees on either side the length of the house is subdivided into a principal dwelling and guest quarters by a breezeway.

The exterior rainscreen of the house (walls, soffits, parapets, and ‘fins’) is clad in charcoal-colored fibre-cement panels which render the house almost invisible when seen against the dark green foliage of the firs. Interiors are described by a luminous inner lining made of translucent acrylic panels. In order to minimize cut panels, these translucent sheets establish the dimensional module for the project. Over forty fixed and operable acrylic skylights bring sunlight into the roof and wall assemblies during the day causing the interior liner to glow softly and irregularly. At night, fluorescent lights mounted within the skylight openings turn the entire interior into a luminous field. Areas within this overall luminous surround are subdivided and defined by the insertion of reinforced concrete fireplace masses and wood cabinet-like service spaces. 78-foot glazed openings and 28-foot cantilevered roof canopies at either end of the house are achieved by a pair of six-foot deep composite wood beams on each long building face. The numerous top hung sliding aluminum glazed door panels are suspended from these beams. Panels are fully retractable so that during the prolonged fair weather of Salt Spring Island the house can be transformed into an open-air pavilion, more shelter than ‘proper’ house.

Patkau Architects Inc.



All images courtesy of Patkau Architects Inc.

Patkau Architects Inc.

Patkau Architects is an architecture and design research studio based in Vancouver, Canada.

The practice is led by four principals: John Patkau, Patricia Patkau, Greg Boothroyd, and David Shone; and three associates: Shane O’Neill, Peter Suter, and Michael Thorpe. Their comprehensive involvement throughout all phases of design and construction consistently results in projects recognized for architectural innovation and quality.



Patkau Architects
1564 West 6th Ave
Vancouver BC
V6J 1R2

+1 604.683.7633


Patkau Architects


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