Juxtaposition - large scale luxury in Vancouver
On one of Vancouver’s largest properties, this projected entitled 'Juxtaposition' is a meticulously restored 1.8 hectare estate which strikes a captivating balance between the historical and contemporary. The property sits within lush grounds that seamlessly blend the distinctive character of the home with the landscape and beyond. Long sight lines, generous open spaces, and borrowed views from the golf course and river delta below give the property a sense of boundless nature; while large covered patios, pool terraces, and expanses of lawn provide an array of spaces for entertaining.
The estate captures the allure of early 20th century elements, and infuses them with modern design methods and materials, greeting all who wander its unique spaces with a sense of surprise and playful delight. Designers, Paul Sangha Landscape Architecture (PSLA) say it was an enormous undertaking by a very supportive client and dedicated team to bring the grounds back to their original grandeur after decades of neglect.
The development of this project started when the client found a property that worked with his desire to own and preserve a unique piece of Vancouver’s history. The estate has had only three owners since being built in 1929, and despite several decades of neglect, had good “bones” and a rich, well-documented history. In a city where the heritage housing stock is under intense pressure, it is rare to find an original home on a large estate-sized lot in a central location.
The property is divided in two by a steep embankment, and PSLA says the work area was approximately 4500 square metres of the upper grounds. In the absence of a project architect, the company’s scope of work encompassed all outdoor spaces including the exterior of the house itself. Newly added or renovated patio spaces equal the area of the interior main floor, demonstrating the significant investments made in outdoor living. Despite these extensive upgrades, only about 10% of the overall site area is hardscape and buildings.
Research yielded photos of the property throughout the decades, which helped in the restoration strategy for the house exteriors as well as guiding the planting palette and site programming. The lower grounds had become so overgrown that without historical photographs, PSLA would not have been aware of what come before – including a boating pond, great lawn and botanical gardens. What started as an initial master plan concept sketch quickly developed into a much more detailed and important project once the vision of what was achievable became apparent.
Being on such a large piece of land, the property automatically falls into the high-end luxury market. Therefore, a key component of the programme was to add the amenities expected of a 21st century estate, which the project was lacking. The client left it in the hands of the designers to programme the house and site, making it both useable to him as well as marketable if sold in the future. They included outdoor cooking facilities, fireplaces, covered spaces with heaters for inclement weather, 20 metre long infinity edge pool, spa, water features, additional covered parking, extensive patio areas for entertaining, art installation, and significant re-planting of garden areas.
Through a rigorous design development process, decisions were made regarding what to restore and what to replace. The house consists of an original wing and an uninspiring mid-century addition. Only the oldest and most authentic historical components of the house and grounds were kept, and all other pieces were either removed or stripped down and renovated with a highly contemporary design language in order to highlight and play up the aesthetics of old against new.
The garden sits split among two planes, though remains seamless in experience. A wide, gently sloping walkway, alongside an intricate veining of smaller paths, stitch the two areas together to encourage back and forth engagement. The dramatic suspended overlook terrace, both sculptural and functional in nature, is projected nine metres beyond the edge of the bank, with a frameless glass railing affording breathtaking views of the landscape beyond.
The landscape architects worked closely with the interior design team to harmonise materials and design approaches, and they studied the home’s interior to create strong spatial relationships between the home and surrounding property. They removed columns and walls in covered areas to create new and more open outdoor spaces on all levels of the house. Patio pavers raised on pedestals allow outdoor floor elevations to match the interior, to create seamless transitions. “Infinity edges” on the pool and hot tub elevate these amenities to sculptural elements that reflect the trees and sky, constantly changing with natural variations of light and weather.
Garden beds use a mix of geometric patterning and long elegant drifts. Hard surface areas feature a composition of “Old World” stone for the driveway and secondary paths, juxtaposed by modern materials for walkways, patios and water features. Layered with the hardscape, the property is a canvas of classical estate plantings contrasted by the wild, native foliage of the Pacific Northwest. Along the periphery of the property, a selection of mature specimen trees gracefully blends with the existing old growth forest, creating a sense of privacy and refuge. Meandering pathways weave in and out of planting beds to engage users with each of the unique spaces of the garden.
European plant species are used around the main house itself, which give way to native Pacific Northwest plants around the perimeter and on the embankment. Hard surface areas feature a composition of “Broadstreet” cobblestones for the driveway and secondary paths. For walkways, the same stone is used but in a contemporary pattern and finish. For patios, “Forward” porcelain pavers by Flaviker of Italy are used for both the contemporary look and ease of removal for maintenance. Pools and water features are clad in “Camara Shadow Grey” slate tiles. Precast tinted concrete was used for outdoor elements such as kitchens and fireplaces that require a high level of durability. Cor-ten steel was employed in a site-specific art installation at the front entrance, used for its patina and evolving colour. For retaining, vegetated geo-modular wall systems were used where possible for a naturalised solution. Trees that had to be felled were cut up on site and reused as furniture or mulch.
The suspended overlook projects well beyond the edge of the bank, with a frameless glass railing, Q-deck construction, concrete and porcelain tile. It is anchored by V-shaped steel with a single footing to minimise the appearance of support from the surrounding area. Feature metal gates were water-jet cut off-site for precision and powder-coated for longevity.
From conceptual sketch through to construction, the garden is designed with a classical and contemporary blend of planting and hardscape. The outdoor spaces, as a result, seek to complete and extend indoor spaces beyond the building and into the garden.