Living in the city doesn’t have to require a compromise in the quality of living, as some rural and suburban dwellers assume. You don’t have to forfeit a sense of privacy, give up a love of nature, or be forced to drive far outside city limits to find true refuge. When designed well, a home in a dense city neighborhood can provide quiet and personal space while keeping its owners thoroughly connected to the pulse of the urban landscape.
When my Vancouver, B.C., clients, a couple of empty-nesters who faced the possibility of boomerang kids, approached me for help in designing a new home, I saw an opportunity to utilize my backgrounds in urban planning and residential architecture. I wanted to design a modern home that would make use of the most-progressive zoning laws, passive-design strategies, and high-performance construction techniques in order to deliver my clients the home they’d always dreamed of. But I also recognized this as an opportunity to design a home that would challenge some of the notions about who lives in the city and how they live.
One lot, two homes
My clients’ vision for their new home was pretty simple: Create a modern, efficient home within 1600 sq. ft. They were also interested in building a laneway home, what some people refer to as an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or a backyard cottage (see “Building out back,” below).
Their property occupies a small corner lot in the hip Kitsilano neighborhood—the Haight-Ashbury of 1960s Vancouver. I often look at a corner lot as a gift, since it allows me to design a building that is much more than just a facade facing a street. making this site even more special are the trees that line the intersecting…