Gambier Island House by McFarlane Green Biggar Architecture + Design

“The Gambier Island House is a weekend getaway for young Vancouver couple with two children. Peacefully perched atop a steep rocky cliff along the northeast coast of Gambier Island in British Columbia, its design is a contemporary version of a cabin in the woods, offering the basic pleasures of a modern home, while also touching lightly on the ground to minimize its environmental impact. Gambier functions entirely off the grid and is powered by independent sources for heat and electricity.”

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Expansive roof decks create a seamless connection with the exterior


The steep and wooded waterfront site is only accessed by water


Simple lines frame the amazing views to the sea and mountains beyond


The entry level is an open plan kitchen + dining + living area


The warm interior spaces seamlessly blend with the spectacular setting


The hybrid structure is principaly wood with some steel and minimal concrete


The warmth of the floors and ceilings douglas fir is balanced by the clean white walls and the open view


Wood, cement board and insulated glass frame the clean rectangular volumes


The intimacy of the private spaces opens up to the immensity of the water


The two and a half levels open up to the rocky fir forest


View to the spectacular Howe Sound


Two stacked boxes located on the north-east side of Gambier Island




“Overlooking the wooded waterfront of Howe Sound and adjacent to a protected, forested watershed and private cove, the secluded home is only accessible via the water. Nested into the rugged topography, the remote and difficult access prioritized design solutions with a focus on formal economy and simple details. Design decisions minimized material requirements, specifically the sparse use of concrete and the prefabrication of certain elements offsite, and reduced the number of barge trips required to deliver the construction material and remove waste. This strategy ensured the construction process had the smallest environmental footprint and brought minimum disruption to the landscape.

The hybrid structure and clean design responds both to the rugged qualities of the site and the strict environmental controls related to the shoreline. Two stacked boxes clad in wood, cement board, and insulated glass house three bedrooms, two bathrooms and an open plan kitchen, dining and living area over the two and a half levels.

Throughout, the floors and ceilings are douglas fir, creating warm interior spaces and a cohesive frame from which to take in the sublime views to the sea and mountains beyond, or to cozily nestle into the rocky fir forests. Expansive roof decks seamlessly extend interior and exterior experiences.

PROJECT DATA: Name: Gambier Island House Location: Gambier Island, BC, Canada Project Cost: Withheld Project Size: 1,700 SF Completion: 2013 Team: Steve McFarlane, Michelle Biggar, Josie Grant, Daniel Marcotte, Lydia Robinson, Tomas Machnikoski Services: Architecture” Photos: courtesy of Office of McFarlane Biggar.

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