Bowen Bay House

The Challenges of Beach House Design

The first thing you notice is the extreme challenge of the site.  This is a narrow strip of rocky waterfront on the westerly side of Bowen Island.  The parking area is separated from the building site by an inlet of the sea that divides the site into two pieces.  The inlet is spanned by a steel and wood footbridge leading to a rocky knoll and one end of the house.

Circumnavigating this and following the wooden boardwalk, the full extent of the house unfolds before you.

The house is organized like the hands of a clock with one arm reaching towards the ocean and the upper arm, stacked on top, extending along the rocky knoll at right angles to the first.  The ocean wing contains the dining, kitchen and living room areas and a covered porch…a modern version of the traditional cottage verandah.  These latter spaces span between the main rock knoll (over a tombolo – a sandy spit between two rocky islets) to connect to a smaller rock surrounded by water.

This dramatic connection is fully realized from within the glass-enclosed living room during a high tide event, where the feeling is of being on a boat surrounded by water.

The central core of the house provides access to the upper floor and extending wing.  One passes three guest bedrooms and related bathroom en route to the master bedroom at the farthest extent of this wing of the house.

The house makes several, subtle salutes to the coastal history of British Columbia.  That history is anchored in a tradition of fishing and the wharf-like decks, metal cladding and simple gable roof forms are reminiscent of the net lofts of a century ago.  These outbuildings allowed fishing boats to off-load their nets for drying and repair.

While the house has these subtle undertones and a slightly industrial character, the main story is about living in direct contact with the ocean.  This is a full-time residence for a couple who are approaching retirement.  They have a deep connection to the sea and keep their boat moored nearby.  One evening on the verandah and you’d never want to leave.

To find out more about how Still Point Architecture can help you with your dream beach house design, contact us.