Nestled along the serene waterfront of Mayne Island, Canada, stands the Shor House – a masterpiece by Measured Architecture that marries the beauty of repurposed wood with modern design.

This Canadian dwelling showcases the extraordinary transformation of reclaimed lumber, resonating with the philosophy of extending the life-cycle of materials destined for disposal. More than just a building, it encapsulates the spirit of conservation, drawing inspiration from traditional Japanese architecture and the ethos of renowned artists, all while preserving the rich history of the materials within its walls.

About Shor House

Alchemy in Architecture: The Shor House

Alchemy isn’t just about transmuting metals. The Shor House on Mayne Island embodies the alchemy of repurposing discarded wood. Instead of constructing new buildings, the future of wood design lies in its recycling. The Shor House proves that by carefully deconstructing wooden structures, we can repurpose and reincarnate materials otherwise destined for the trash. This approach represents the cutting edge of wooden design.

Rebirth from the Rubble

Much of the reused wood originates from the previous house and barn on this waterfront spot. This prime location gazes over the Navy Channel towards Pender Island. Instead of demolition, a contractor meticulously dismantled the structures. The cladding, floors, and frames were preserved without a defined purpose for the new establishment. A pivotal design choice kept most of the original foundation, but pivoted the building’s main axis by 90 degrees, simplifying development approvals.

Preserving the Past

The existing dry-stacked stone retaining wall was not only maintained but also enhanced by expert stone-mason Tamotsu Tongu. He lent his expertise in landscape conservation and planting, creating a harmony between stone, wood, and garden reminiscent of classic Japanese architecture. The home’s floorboards, worn and authentic, were reincorporated without sanding. This not only preserves their historical character but also conserves energy since the wood never left the premises.

Legacy in Materials

The team at Measured Architecture broadened their search for reclaimed building supplies. They discovered yellow cedar ties from the disassembled Englewood Railroad on Northern Vancouver Island, operational from 1917-2017. Shockingly, some of these woods trace back to millennium-old trees, carrying a legacy unmatched by contemporary lumberyards. Additional materials were sourced from Vancouver’s former Turner Dairy, enhancing various parts of the house.

A Tapestry of History

Architect Clinton Cuddington views this process as weaving together a diverse set of site assets. The Shor House’s design inspiration also stems from a personal experience: Cuddington’s visit to sculptor Donald Judd’s Marfa compound in Texas. The reutilized military buildings and Judd’s minimalist designs influenced his vision for his own home. Every element, from the fireplace’s reclaimed steel design to the furniture, mirrors this ethos.

Simplicity and Sustainability

The house’s design is straightforward: a saltbox facing the water with vast glazing. Upon closer inspection, its asymmetrical roof maximizes the efficiency of 32 solar panels. The absence of drywall, a frequent landfill contributor, underscores a commitment to sustainability. Instead, the interiors showcase Venetian plaster walls, local black Carmanah marble, and exterior cladding painted white. New wood, treated with Shou Sugi Ban, complements the corten steel exterior.

Steel: An Unexpected Choice

Given the home’s wooden heart, why choose corten steel for the exterior? Minimal maintenance and rising wood prices during the pandemic played a role. Steel’s recyclability appeals to the eco-conscious, and Cuddington’s family ties to steel manufacturing adds a personal touch.

From Rejection to Reincarnation

True alchemy transcends the material. The Shor House stands as a testament to the transformative power of repurposing. Grounded by its very materials and the narratives they carry, this home elevates discarded components into architectural artistry. Imagine if more architects embraced this philosophy, blending history and innovation. In Cuddington’s words, “This house has been reincarnated!”

Photography by Ema Peter Photography

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