Recent radio silence has been the result of being either too busy in the city, or too unbusy and computerless while on various islands.
Today I learned that the term dog days is very old, a translation from the latin dies caniculares. It refers to “the hottest, most sultry days of summer in late August. Dog Days can also define a time period or event that is very hot or stagnant, or marked by dull lack of progress.” City dwellers in the Pacific Northwest are lucky if they can get out of the city and onto an island during the dog days of summer.
At a recent Vancouver lecture series on the Westcoast Modern style of architecture, an architect remarked that BC’s key architectural form is perhaps the cabin. This is true both when you consider the virtuosity and inventive variation within the cabin form, and also when you take into account the comparative architectural poverty of most house and commercial architecture in the province. This poverty is especially evident in the cities – Vancouver, Victoria and their suburbs. The roots of this problem only partly lie in the lack of artistic and craft tradition in the region. The real cause is the overly strict urban design guidelines and building codes inflicted here, rules that drive many top architects to do their best work in locations out of the city, where building codes are less restrictive.
The way in which the building industry has driven these often idiotic urban codes is a topic that really needs to be blown open. Meanwhile, building codes need to be pared down and simplified if we are ever to improve our urban environment here. We must find a way to allow and even encourage innovation. Right now, architects can barely navigate the rat’s nest of rules. It’s amazing anything gets built at all.
Photos here were taken on various islands. My friends and family prefer their cabins not to be photographed for publication online, so that leaves us with just a few details from four different buildings. If you want to see more, you can find similar houses in Lloyd Kahn’s excellent books though many of the places in his books are less minimalist and more Tolkien than the places I visit. A self-conscious hippie mother earth paganism with sunbursts isn’t really what I’m going for. More interested in simple, time-tested materials used properly. See last summer’s post for one such place, and there is also no shortage of photographs of Pacific Northwest cabins online.
Above and below, hand-plastered walls and ceiling on Hornby Island. Sadly, this is rarely done anymore.
At Wayne Ngan’s famous ceramic studio on Hornby Island. Above, a frog we caught in his pond. (It seemed very calm; we put it back afterward, unharmed.) Below, the central roof beam in his main building.
Handmade skylight blinds, Hornby Island.
Above, Hornby Island. Below and at very top, on islands in Howe Sound near Vancouver.