A regional response to our west coast rainforest climate. American influences such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s “organic” style and Oregon’s Pietro Ballushi houses were both concerned with bringing the outdoors in, resulting in large glass areas and larger lots to maintain privacy. Landscaping plays an important part in the site layout with the entrance being sequestered from the street.
Three types of architect-designed West Coast Modern houses are found in Vancouver:
- Post and Beam
Simple, usually asymmetrical low pitched roof lines with large overhangs supported by a system of openly expressed posts and beams. Clerestory window(s) run from the top of the door line and touches the ceiling, bringing in light to balance the deep eaves that shelter them. With large spans, many interior walls stop at the top of the doors. Many West Coast Modern houses present a blank wall to the street with a sequestered entry on the side and open up with extensive glazing to the rear (or side yard), depending on lot size and orientation to the sun.
Derived by Californian ‘ranchos’ with their emphasis on opening to private spaces such as the back yard, the suburban emphasis on one-level living with a basement level fully or almost fully buried below grade. The garage is attached at the roof line being elongated horizontally. It is usually in a simple open gabled or hipped roof form. Hillside ranchers often have walk out basements.
- A Frame
With the roof forming a steep triangular shape which is also the walls of the house, this form can also be cross gabled or attached to another form with the emphasis being on view sightlines out the two-plus storey, A frame window. Entrances are usually on the side expressed in a protruding dormer (A frame or shed roof).
- Post and Beam
Square or round posts such as log poles support heavy beams that appear to penetrate the large glazed areas. Clerestory windows flank the post and beams and go up to the roofline. Beams can be glu-cammed with exposed planking between beams for enrichment. This system of support introduces modular design (post or window are always 8 feet from side to side). Consistently partitioned into the same size. For example, posts are always 8 feet on center. Windows are 4 feet wide fitting into 8 foot openings. Fin walls, a wall that penetrates the glazing to run outside usually in the same material inside and out, act as a privacy shield from neighbouring houses.
Ground level access emphasizes the one level with sliding glass doors used in nearly all major rooms for indoor or outdoor flow. On sloped sites, decking is utilized in lieu of patio access. Styling is cosmetic such as undersized shutters in ‘colonial’ ranchers, faux lunette dormers on French provincial houses, raised gable ends and moon windows in Japanese ranchers. Masonry chimneys can be massive in form both inside and out, skylights begin to be incorporated into the overall design-many are just rectangular cut outs to combat the deep overhangs and glazing on only one exposure.
Variations include the prow shaped large front window, triangular in form and plan. Large beams run up the wall inside to support the roof/walls. Open lofts predominate in the layout with two storeys plus in the living spaces.
- Post and Beam
Exposed wood on the ceiling plane to match the post and beams. Wood planking penetrates the glazing to run out on the underside of the eaves and if the interior walls have planking the same detail appears on the outside thin walls. Exteriors are usually wood siding or shingle or stucco with robust wood trim. Roofs can be tar and gravel if low pitched or flat. Cedar shake or shingle as well as asphalt appear on steeper pitched roofs.
Lap siding, V-groove panels, stucco and sometimes board and batten appear on ranchers. Roofs and asphalt or tar and gravel, upgrading to cedar shake or metal seamed roofs. Windows are generally powder coated aluminum often covered with robust wood trim.
- A Frame
The triangular roof form is nearly always wood-cedar shake or shingles with the wood planking exposed on the underside of the eaves and interior matching the supporting beams. Robust wood trim is used on the windows, doors, stairs and hand rails inside with dry wall for visual relief. Chimneys and fireplaces are often prefab in the form of stoves, traditional and contemporary with stove pipes on the exterior roof/walls.