This Vancouver house nods to Canadian West Coast modernism
Battersby Howat Architects’ new villa in Vancouver brings together quiet luxury and lush landscapes
West Vancouver’s Bonetti 2 Residence came about when a long-term friend and business associate asked architects David Battersby and Heather Howat to design his new Vancouver house. The duo not only took the opportunity to craft a contemporary family home that elegantly straddles glamour and modesty, they also had the chance to conceive the house as a 21st-century interpretation of West Coast modernism. Sympathetically bridging the built and the natural, this stellar strand of midcentury architecture includes in its legacy the work of 20th-century masters such as Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, Ron Thom and Arthur Erickson.
The site, at a steep 45-degree incline overlooking a rail cut and a ravine, was generous but wasn’t without its challenges. ‘We did the clients’ first house in West Vancouver, so this was our second go. They had us take a look at the site before they purchased it, as it wasn’t at all obvious how one could possibly build on it. It was nothing more than a steep bank covered in brambles,’ Battersby recalls. ‘Our immediate reaction was to use the house as a massive retention structure so that we could create a courtyard-type scenario between the road’s edge and the dwelling.’ And so they did, placing the house against the long side of the plot, thus allowing the creation of a structured garden in front of it, with various geometrically designed terraced areas and pathways connecting the interior to the outdoors.
Sinking the structure a storey below the street level helped isolate it from the surrounding houses, securing privacy for the residents. If strolling through the house makes you feel engulfed in greenery, it’s thanks to the architects’ mastery and carefully edited outlooks that focus on the tree canopy and garden. The architects reference an affinity towards nature that is best exemplified in the work of Erickson, one of the most important Canadian modernists, whose houses seemed intrinsically connected to their context. ‘We try to express a similar reverence,’ explains Battersby. ‘The architecture is relatively muted, it’s more of a mechanism to connect to the natural world. The white recessed areas, with all the windows and doors, are the thresholds both literally and figuratively between the interior and exterior, artifice and nature.’
The piano nobile contains a sequence of connected living spaces, as well as the master bedroom, while the lower level houses a further three bedrooms. An L-shaped configuration allows for the garage to sit at one end of the house, connected to the street via a sloped driveway. Linear volumes, clever openings that allow for an abundance of natural light, and a pared-back material palette make for a sophisticated, contemporary space. The result feels a fitting design for its owner, a developer who was not only after a family home, but also a building that would showcase their business and passion for design, art and architecture.
‘Designing homes is endlessly variable. It’s such a gratifying process,’ says Battersby. ‘We want to do great design work that facilitates a connected sense of being in the world. We think this is more important than it’s ever been. Sometimes this means that the architecture needs to be a little quieter – not every house needs to be screaming “LOOK AT ME!”’ §