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Tula House

Patkau Architects

You approach the new, stealthily-sited Tula House through thickets of green and between outcrops of raw rock. You have most likely arrived at Quadra Island by local ferry and passed along winding country roads between sporadic buildings of modest vernacular charm. You turn off this public route and proceed beneath a canopy of fir, alder and maple before turning again and descending towards a vast maritime panorama stretching out far beyond. You then notice the roof of the house extending as an angular, triangulated plane, a taut horizontal stratum extending from the surrounding terrain. It’s not immediately clear where nature ends and this new architecture begins.
Quadra Island lies in the Strait of Georgia, between Vancouver Island and the coast of mainland British Columbia. It’s a bucolic slice of Canada at the interface of geology, vegetation and the ocean. It is of course linked to our wider contemporary world of communications and commerce, signaled here by the metropolis of Vancouver, two hours to the south and home to Patkau Architects. John and Patricia Patkau have established a practice notable for its attention to site, human scale and articulate detail. Tula House is evidence of evolution in their architectural thinking. It’s a sleek monolith, a kind of topological gesture in dialogue with the earth, the forest and the sea.
Frank Lloyd Wright famously posited that a house should be “of a hill” rather than on top of it; that architecture should grow from nature rather than foolishly attempting to dominate or supplant the natural world. “Hill and house should live together,” Wright wrote in his 1932 autobiography, “each the happier for the other.” As designed by Patkau Architects, Tula House extends the natural sedimentation of its site to shelter an interior that functions like a protected platform with unhindered views to the sound below. The building mass fragments in plan to embrace an...

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