I heard another architect say lately that the cabin form is the vernacular architecture of British Columbia, and that is probably true. Mark’s cabin approaches the Ur example of that form. So many of these island cabins are overdone, full of formal awkwardness, ill proportions, fussiness or materials unbefitting the surroundings. This one however feels as if it belongs in the Pacific Northwest temperate rainforest. It has more glass than usual for a cabin but it’s a summer place, and as anyone who lives in this climate knows, daylight becomes extremely important for mood here, and so does the view of trees. Mark is an outdoorsman (old school word but can’t think of replacement) himself whose family has lived in B.C. for generations and perhaps this partially explains his facility with this form.
Simplicity is far more difficult than it looks.
See many other interesting structures at Osburn Clarke.
As an aside:
Many probably don’t know that Mark Osburn was an important figure in the key 1976 Vancouver event Habitat Forum, part of a massive UN Habitat Conference on Human Settlements that took place in this city. I am currently writing a book about Habitat (for more information about that, please see my website Habitat Forum 76) and that is actually how I met Mark. He was responsible for the stunning interior of Habitat Forum’s Plenary Hall, a vintage military seaplane hangar that was repurposed for the conference. In its interior Mark designed a stage and an immense structure of staggered, informal seating resembling Jenga. The structure included salvaged lumber that was milled on site. The outside of the hangar was painted with a massive mural designed by renowned First Nations artist Bill Reid, effectively turning it into a Northwest Coast longhouse. The demolition of this building by Vancouver Parks Board in 1980 is a scandal that still infuriates me. The ongoing loss of what scant history we have left in Vancouver, not to mention the constant, deliberate removal of public spaces where people can gather, has become a hallmark of this historicidal town. But that’s another story. In any case, the early work of Mark and others in the Deluxe Inc group of repurposing older Vancouver buildings was part of the same widespread citizen effort that spawned Granville Island, and he deserves some of the credit for that. It is unfortunate that Granville Island is virtually all we have left of these older industrial-style buildings. Other cities have done better. In Vancouver it isn’t for lack of citizen effort that we have failed. It’s a City Hall hijacked by developers that’s responsible for historicide.
Seating platform by Mark Osburn. Ceiling banner, a massive piece covering the entire hangar ceiling, was designed by Bill Reid.
Above, view of interior of Plenary Hall during concert. You can see the view of ocean and freighters from inside the Plenary Hall (which is the building at right, below)