A-frames were born from utilitarian roots, then embraced throughout the 1960s and 70s by holiday home builders in vacation destinations worldwide. Now , a Vancouver architectural couple are applying a 21st century spin to yesteryear’s most classic cabin. By Steven Threndyle.
When Vancouver, British Columbia, architect Susan Scott was four years old, she and her family were stranded for several days in a Whistler A-frame cabin. “Of course, getting snowed in like that doesn’t happen anymore,” she says. But the romantic notion of a simpler, more rugged time in Whistler history played a role in the custom vacation home that she and her husband, David, who are principals of Scott and Scott Architects, designed for technology entrepreneur Brenton Brown and his family.
The Browns are part of a new wave of Vancouverites buying into the Whistler market—tech entrepreneurs with international business experience who are settling down and having kids. Though he grew up near Vancouver, Brenton Brown’s early days were spent snowboarding at Mount Baker. In 2012, the Browns picked up a craggy, undeveloped lot in Emerald Estates and found the Scotts through mutual friends who had attended the University of British Columbia’s famously modernist architecture school.
The Browns and Scotts immediately bonded over their love for the somewhat impractical and retro A-frame design. Architect David Scott says, “The sleeping loft can get very hot. The exterior of the house is dominated by the roof. If the dwelling isn’t oriented properly to the sun’s path, it can be very dark inside. Another drawback is that staircases to upper levels take up a lot of room.”
To create a vacation home, the Smiths literally nestled it into the side of the mountain. Indeed, it rises like its very own peak out of the existing rock, making it an intriguing architectural statement. Over time, the western red cedar shakes will turn as gray as a Coast Range sky and match the concrete foundation. The simple design works well on challenging building lot and suits the Emerald neighbourhood, which still has a few A-frames and modified Gothic arch homes standing six decades strong.
“The A-frame is a type which is a formally elemental response to shedding snow efficiently and directly,” says David. “The result is a building which is comforting in its strength and direct connection to the earth.” The Scotts’ update on the classic A-frame has resulted in some prestigious awards. Earlier this year, the couple were named as “Canada’s Top Architects Under Forty” by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.