Dog days of summer, and cabins on the coast

Hornby Island

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.

Roofline shot lying on deck

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.

On Hornby Island

Above and below, hand-plastered walls and ceiling on Hornby Island. Sadly, this is rarely done anymore.

On Hornby Island

Hornby Island

Frog at Wayne Ngan's ceramic studio, Hornby Island

Frog at Wayne Ngan's ceramic studio, Hornby Island

Frog at Wayne Ngan's ceramic studio, Hornby Island

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.

Wayne Ngan's ceramic studio, Hornby Island

On Hornby Island

On Hornby Island

Handmade skylight blinds, Hornby Island.

On Hornby Island

Above, Hornby Island. Below and at very top, on islands in Howe Sound near Vancouver.

Howe Sound

Floats, Pasley Island

Floats in Howe Sound

Floats in Howe Sound

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2 Responses to “Dog days of summer, and cabins on the coast”

  1. jessica Says:

    I just went to Hornby for the first time — gorgeous! I’ll be on Lasqueti Isl and Salt Spring next week… only sane way to live in Vancouver!

  2. Foster Grant Says:

    Love this in the biggest way. Wayne’s studio is amazing, he told us that Arthur Erickson and Gordon Smith used to visit. We picked up this book whilst on Hornby during the dog days in August… How to be there permanently is my next challenge.

    http://www.amazon.ca/Builders-Pacific-Coast-Lloyd-Kahn/dp/0936070439

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