Architects: Leckie Studio Architecture + Design Inc.
Area : 232 sqm (2500 ft²)
Year : 2021
Photographs: Ema Peter
Manufacturers : Flexalighting, Liteline, Pure Edge, Unifloor
General Contractor : Adisa Homes Ltd.
Structural Engineering : Chalten Engineering
Geotechnical Engineering : Terran Geotechnical Group
Project Architect : Michael Leckie
Project Lead Design : James Eidse, Emily Dovbniak
Project Interiors : Denise Liu, Charlotte Kennedy
Project Support : Andrea Zittlau, Irena Jenei, Holden Korbin
Audio/Visual Consultant : Audiospace
City : Vancouver
Country : Canada
Courtyard House provides a prototypical example of biophilic design and passive solar architecture, with an emphasis on lasting and meaningful personal connection with an embedded natural experience. This emphasis on building ‘less but better’ is contrary to the abundance of local Vancouver-based house designs that maximize built square footage in support of the abstract notion of resale value over lived experience – sacrificing quality for quantity.
Using the constraint of discipline required in a smaller functional program, the overall floor area on the ground level behaves as a pair of spaces organized on either side of the courtyard. Private spaces on the second floor feature views of the North Shore mountains and seasonally flowering dogwood trees. The main floor is a polished concrete slab with a minor sectional shift that follows the natural topography of the site.
The mute exterior of Courtyard House is juxtaposed with a glazed central courtyard on the main floor. The two-story, three-bedroom home features a horseshoe-shaped floor plan, with full height operable glazing connecting the primary living spaces of the main floor to the lush open-air courtyard. At the rear of the house, a cantilevered second floor overhangs a portion of the paved back patio, providing protection from solar gain at the full-width glazing wall.
The fully-glazed street-facing wall of the living room is screened with vertical wood battens for privacy – affording a greater sense of connection outward than inward. The roof line slopes down to the home’s central courtyard from the front, rear, and east side yards, expressing itself on the west elevation. This form results in dramatically vaulted ceilings on the upper floor, where the home’s private spaces are located.
While openings on the main level are characterized by floor-to-ceiling fixed windows and sliding glass doors, the second floor is characterized by discrete punched openings that frame intentional views of the surrounding context. Skylights are intentionally positioned to introduce a provocative experiential dialectic between the upper and lower volumes, as well as assist with passive ventilation. The upper volume is deliberately shifted southward over the full height glazing at the rear yard, providing protection from solar gain in the summer months.
The material and color palettes that run through the interior maintain the restrained, contemporary sensibility of the architecture. Concrete makes up the floor on the ground level, while white oak is utilized on the second. White oak-wrapped casework and paneling are unadorned, and left in a natural finish in most areas, providing warmth to the otherwise monochromatic grey interior. The main feature of the kitchen and dining area is a monumental stone island, with discrete cooking elements individually embedded into it.