The project combines design and sustainability, with a particular attention to the involvement of the local community
“Our intent was to create a space that reflects the type of work we do: we love design and we wanted to work in a place that mirrored that. We also wanted it to be accessible, so that people could come in, and for it to become a gathering place for Squamish artisans.”
When Jon Hewitt, the founder of Leon Lebeniste Fine Furnishings & Architectural Woodworking – a company specializing in woodworking and custom-made furnishings – needed a large place to house the headquarters of his business, he had no doubts on his desires for the new architecture and entrusted the project to Hemsworth Architecture, the studio already known for its sensibility towards environmental sustainability and design.
The building rising in the magnificent Squamish Valley in British Columbia, is the result of a close collaboration between Jon Hewitt and the architects of Hemsworth Architecture, particularly with the firm’s founder, John Hemsworth.
The project was designed according to three main objectives: focusing on sustainability, valuing design, and creating a gathering place for the community, a center for makers and creatives from across the valley.
The new industrial facility rises three stories high with a total surface area of 2,700 sq m: with its forms, colors, and finishings, it blends in perfectly into the natural landscape of Squamish Valley, while recalling the region’s artisan and manufacturing traditions.
The composition presents as a series of stacked volumes, slightly offset on some fronts, and hollowed out by voids on others. Vertical slats of red cedar wood create a geometric design that dialogues with both the stereometry of the architecture and the colors of the surrounding nature. Dark metal panels complement the opaque surfaces of the elevations, echoing the metallic profile of the glass windows.
Jon Hewitt wanted to create a transparent ground floor, to incentivize a dialogue between the exterior and interior. Stating that “industrial spaces tend to be a black box,” the company’s founder explained that the facility was designed to engage the community, so that people passing through, day or night, could see a local workspace.
Unlike other structures in the surrounding industrial distract, the principal façade of the building features a long strip of floor-to-ceiling windows on the ground floor, that allows people to see the production facility from the outside. On the same front, another line of ribbon windows defines the volume above, which looks like a closed, massive prism clad entirely in wood.
Upon entering the building, one is completely surrounded by wood: the load-bearing structure is realized in Glulam, made of glued wooden boards, while the loft and roof are made of CLT cross-laminated timber. These materials were chosen to meet the goal of sustainability and for their capacity to create an intimate and welcoming environment, also recalling the company’s core business.
The inside of the building houses the store, the offices, and the industrial production facility. The spaces were designed to promote visual continuity and collaboration between people. From the entrance, located inside the store, it is possible to see the grand staircase that leads to the other levels. The factory occupies the entire main floor, and the offices and design spaces are located on the upper floor and enjoy a view of production. This conveys a sense of involvement of all the workers as part of a single process.
The top floor houses more industrial spaces and offices, designed to share the building with other makers and creators of Squamish.
Finally, to strengthen the relationship between Leon Lebeniste and the local community, there is a rooftop café and green roof, that increases the sustainability of the building and blends the contours of the architecture into the natural landscape.
Location: Squamish Valley, British Columbia, Canada
Client: Leon Lebeniste
Architect: Hemsworth Architecture
Structures: Equilibrium Consulting Inc.
Mechanical: MCW Consultants Ltd.
Electrical: MCL Engineering Ltd.
Landscape Architect: Considered Design Inc.
Main Contractor: Kindred Construction
Photography by Ema Peter, courtesy of Hemsworth Architecture