Swiss Point is located on the southern tip of Nova Scotia, and is located in Argyle Municipality of Yarmouth County. Argyle Municipality is considered the oldest “still Acadian” region in Nova Scotia. Yarmouth County is composed of primarily Anglo-Scottish and Acadian French residents and is well known for its inland wilderness areas. The region became well known as an international shipbuilding center. The proposed site is located on the forested high points of the region, adjacent to long low-lying views of marshland, small islands and the waters of the Tusket River off the Gulf of Maine.
The overall strategy consists of 5 buildings and a bridge. Initially there will be a garage house, a boathouse (shared), and separate houses for the families of Swiss seasonal occupants. Additionally, there will be a viewing platform built high above the water which overlooks the entire master plan and surrounding landscape. The master plan concept, as well at the design of each of its components, is based on the idea of connecting individual and unique buildings through views, materiality and construction methods. The uniqueness of each building is developed by pursuing the individual client needs, the specific local site conditions (elevation, views) and the processional experience of moving through the site towards the building.
The materiality, form and siting are all intrinsically connected to the local condition. The economical shed roof is inspired by local fishing sheds and shanties spread along the Nova Scotia coastline. The roof framing spans the exterior walls, making for the most economical and efficient roof form. The low-end of the roof faces towards the main road and public realm as a modest gesture, providing for a comfortable human scale at the narratives introduction.
The building siting is a consequence of two local natural landscaping features; the view and the appropriate high points for construction. Buildings are sited as close to the edge of the water as possible while maintaining a safe distance from the rising tides and erosion in order to protect the buildings foundation over time. Each of the buildings, as well as each space within those buildings, provides completely unique views as a consequence of the perimeter based master plan scheme. The long windowless north face aims to economize the building’s energy use and create a barrier from the prevailing north-east winds.
Above all else, the project is sustainably designed by utilizing the local skill, talent and material base of the region. Building construction is also economized by using cladding and framing techniques that are well known and easy to adapt in a modern vocabulary. All of the eastern white cedar comes from local sources.
Beneath the building’s slab on grade is a radiant heating system which utilized earth source thermal storage by ThermaRay. This is the only heating system for the houses in the winter, and in the summer they rely on highly designed natural cross-ventilation and air exchangers, with no mechanical cooling assistance.
The foundation systems is composed of Nudura ICF foundation walls and the wood framing systems (wall/roof) is insulated with both 1” exterior rigid insulation and closed cell spray-foam insulation. As previously mentioned, north winds are blocked and all major wall openings are on the south-east and south-west orientations. Minimal earth work was ensured by designing the houses around existing site features.
The Swiss owned seasonal residence buildings provide an intended drama – the joy of discovering the immeasurable view for the first time, repeatedly. The building is composed of varying contrasts through space, acoustics, contrasting light and textures to build that narrative. Long corridors of light turned darkness and noise turned quiet in “compression” zones create a crescendo at the mouth of the grand, bright and loud view. In the case of the main houses the crescendo occurs at the entry, where the incredible view is held back for a moment to build anticipation. Both houses are composed of 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and various other interior and exterior living spaces such as studies, living rooms and kitchens.
As requested, above all else the dwelling unit must be modern, elemental, cozy and must emphasize the surrounding landscape as the focal point (art). The residence is located at the tip of the site with a 270 degree view of the surrounding landscape.
As one approaches the dwelling unit they are shielded from the magnificent view. As the visitor approaches the minimal (blank) wooden wall, they enter a central slot which emphasizes a “keyhole” effect that is narrow and vertical. As one slips through the narrow and vertically limiting hallway they are exposed to a massive perimeter wall of light, air and an endless view of the landscape.
As requested, the residence is designed to evoke a Zen-like experience for the user. The building is located on a knuckle of land raised slightly above the water. Adjacent to the landmass is a shared beach and soft coastline.
The approach to the residence brings visitors across a 40’ bridge. The visitor would then be faced with a blank building facade, save a tube-like entrance corridor. Parking is found below the main floor level, then leading through a darkened compression zone with a stair leading to the center of the main floor plan. The intended narrative is to provide a “light at the end of the tunnel” for the user, experienced one step at a time up the stairs as the horizon comes into view. Once at the top of the stair, the visitor would be exposed to a perimeter view on one side and the building program on the other.
The garage / guest house building is located off the main road and provides ground level parking for multiple cars, a motorcycle with sidecar and plenty of storage. The second floor is the shared floor which includes amenities for living, cooking, dining and relaxing. The main views are toward both the east and west landscape, while the third floor (sleeping, bathing) allows for an uninterrupted view of the south landscape. The roof level allows for a potential exterior roof deck.
The viewing platform is located on the high ground which is north-west of the dwelling sites. The platform is built high enough to allow for an uninterrupted view above the trees. The basic structure is minimal to allow for height and lateral stability. At the top there is a lens type structure which shades visitors from the high hot sun while focusing out at the composition of the master plan below.
Eastern white cedar was selected as the primary cladding systems in both shingle and board form for economy, durability and ease of construction. A slab on grade foundation system was selected for economy and minimal disturbance to the beautiful and drainage efficient site. Items such as ICF foundations, earth storage heat system and high performance windows were considered for long term efficient even with the greater up-front costs. Concrete floors provide thermal mass in the cold winter and warm summer months. Interior wood/insulation baffles provide acoustic insulation and dampening in select areas as well as visual variation. Artificial lighting is sparse and highly sensored to promote energy efficiency and discourage light pollution in the rural area.
LOCATION: Undisclosed Location, Nova Scotia
PROJECT STATUS: Possible 2013 Construction Start
DESIGN: Omar Gandhi, Jeff Shaw
RENDERINGS: Jeff Shaw