Custom Wood Windows

Feature Project: Balance Associates, Architects – Seattle, WA

Dynamic Project Stories

Project Name: Cortes Island Residence
Project Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia, Canada
Project Year: 2011
Site Area: 9 +/- Acres
House Area: 1850 square feet

Dynamic’s feature home of the month is located on Cortes Island, British Columbia, a remote island on the Straight of Georgia at the mouth of Desolation Sound. The site is formed of natural granite bedrock and contains a dramatic peninsula and cliff which serve as a windbreak for Cortes Bay and the Seattle and Vancouver yacht clubs.

The clients were looking for a house that would eventually become their fulltime residence but could also serve as a getaway and gathering place in the interim. They had been using a cabin on the property for years and intended to demolish it to make way for the new home. A local fisherman heard the news and asked if he could reuse the home as a fishing cabin. The fisherman had been moving his own seaside home by barge from Cortes Island up to a northern island for the fishing season and moving it back every year. The old house, now on Queen Charlotte Sound, will be used for many years to come.

The clients’ desire was to have a single level home with views of the sound from every room. Given the rectilinear nature of the site, the architect chose to elevate and elongate the house along the shoreline with an even and rhythmic structure. The result is what some locals affectionately refer to as the ‘sopwith camel’; because the form is reminiscent of the WWI biplane. The great room, with its 24ft wide lift and slide doors flanked by two wings of the house, spreads out above the water as if it had landed on the rocky outcropping.

The primary structural support for the home is the steel frame, anchored to the site by way of a system of a concrete foundation and pilings embedded into the granite bedrock which serves as the footing for the foundation. Integrated with the steel frame is the secondary structural support system comprised of exposed wood floor beams. These two systems allow the home to cantilever off of the hillside while withstanding seasonally extreme weather, including 100mph+ winds and salt spray from the ocean below.

The entry of the home is recessed from the north façade and opens up to the great room. This central space contains the living room, dining room and kitchen, all with expansive views of the straight beyond. It opens up to a south-facing deck by way of a grand 11ft tall by 24ft wide custom lift and slide door system. The great room is flanked by a guest suite and study to the west and a master suite that captures the morning sunlight to the east.

The home is clad in clear western red cedar which continues in the hallways throughout the home, further strengthening the relationship between the home’s interior and its surroundings. Clear pine also transitions from exterior soffit to ceiling material on the interior, alleviating the space between the visually heavy roof and radiant concrete floor structure. The Cortes residence treads lightly on the site while offering expansive views of the sound that stretches before it.

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Balance Associates, Architects
80 Vine Street
Suite 201
Seattle, WA 98121


Blue Moon Woodworks

Structural Engineer

Quantum Consulting Engineers


Steve Keating Photography