Designed as a home and studio for a photographer and his young family, Lightbox is located on a peninsula that extends south from British Columbia across the border to Point Roberts. The densely forested site lies beside a 180-acre park that overlooks the Strait of Georgia, the San Juan Islands and the Puget Sound.
Having experienced the world from under a black focusing cloth and large format camera lens, the photographer has a special fondness for simplicity and an appreciation of unique, genuine and well-crafted details.
The home was made decidedly modest, in size and means, with a building skin utilizing simple materials in a straightforward yet innovative configuration. The team concentrated on eliminating anything unnecessary, assembling without cutting and fabricating, and creating a special moment in space that rivals a child’s treehouse or a fort. The pared-down flexible system used for the Lightbox is one that could be applied to 5,000 square feet just as well as 200. It is a careful balance of elegant proportions and scale. The result is a structure crafted from affordable and common materials such as exposed wood two-bys that form the structural frame and directly support a prefabricated aluminum window system of standard glazing units uniformly sized to reduce the complexity and overall cost.
Durable finishes were chosen that were also easily repairable and maintainable. Floors are concrete on the lower level and exposed wood car decking on the upper floor. Natural and reclaimed materials were used when possible. Shelving is crafted from resawn timbers, the exterior finishes are a Pine Tar product over cedar, and much of the furniture and fixtures were found during the Owners travels such as the antique Pittsburgh Mercury Lamp hanging in the Dining Area.
While hydronic heat and antique cast iron radiators, that were electrified, very efficiently keep the house warm throughout the year, the home also has a centrally located fireplace that transforms the space into a cozy sanctuary as the storms move across the peninsula.
Accessed from the west on a sloped boardwalk that bisects its two contrasting forms, the house sits lightly on the land above the forest floor.
A south facing two-story glassy cage for living captures the sun and view as it celebrates the interplay of light and shadow in the forest. To the north, stairs are contained in a thin wooden box stained black with a traditional Finnish pine tar coating. Narrow apertures in the otherwise solid dark wooden wall sharply focus the vibrant cropped views of the old growth fir trees at the edge of the deep forest.
Lightbox is an uncomplicated yet powerful gesture that enables one to view the subtlety and beauty of the site while providing comfort and pleasure in the constantly changing light of the forest.
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson is noted for elegant and humane design, ranging from modest houses to large academic, civic, cultural, commercial, and corporate buildings. Our principals and staff are deeply committed to active collaboration with our clients, emphasizing thorough research and analysis of each situation’s particular human, technical, and economic circumstances. The result is exceptional architecture that resonates within its place.
Since 1965, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson has received more than 625 regional, national, and international design awards, including three Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA). We are also the recipients of the AIA Architecture Firm Award, the most prestigious honor bestowed upon an architectural practice by the Institute. In addition, our founding principal, Peter Bohlin, was awarded the AIA Gold Medal, the highest honor an individual American architect can receive.
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