This refuge on the Bay of Fundy - located on Mi’kmaq first nations territory in Hants County Nova Scotia - is a lesson in embracing the local vernacular. A collaboration between the architecture firm Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited and Dalhousie University Masters of Architecture students, the small cabin offers a refuge to passersby, fishermen, and hikers. Beyond a place of refuge, however, is evidence of strong contemplative thought. Upon closer examination, this rustic cabin offers two lessons to its builders and visitors: the importance of environmental best practices and the effect it has on building a stronger community and sense of place.
As part of a program to teach students from Dalhousie University practical processes and conditions for building and development, the cabin was constructed using local woods milled in the area, including hemlock, cedar, and spruce. Using sustainable, locally sourced lumber allowed students to learn about the different species of wood and their natural properties and applications while working with them hands on.
For instance, the cabin's exposed structural elements such as the beams and floor joists were constructed using the rot-resistant hemlock, while the exterior walls and roof were clad with cedar shingles allowing for variance in the local climate - all thanks to cedars naturally occurring preservatives. The buildings north and south facing facade are built using hemlock slats, which not only protect the building from the turbulent winds and weather but also embrace the vernacular of local structures, with their steep pitched-roof form.
Inside the cabin, spruce was utilized to construct the interior finishes such as cabinets and chairs, as this particular softwood should be protected from the intensity of our East Coast winters. The small volumetric interior of the cabin is easily warmed by the wood-burning stove which is well insulated by the building's wooden jacket.
By embracing environmental best practices and the traditional building techniques of Nova Scotia, a second lesson in place-making took centre stage. The hands-on learning collaboration with Mckay-Lyons Sweet Apple Architects Limited not only exposed students to real-world experience, but it also taught the students that harmony between the environment and its community is crucial to determining a strong sense of place - and can help build a stronger community.
With this understanding, this refuge on the Bay of Fundy becomes more than just a cabin, it acts as a placeholder for a many unique environmental and cultural lessons. Its wood-burning stove draws in visitors, while its enchanting volumetric form creates the opportunity for engagement or contemplation. It invites the viewer to engage in their surroundings, and become grounded with the environment.
Curious to see more? Here's some of our past posts on Houseporn.ca featuring Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited. Needless to say, we're fans!
Be sure to also peruse their website and its stunning portfolio here: Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited.
Photographs reproduced courtesy of Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited.
Researched and written by Amanda Salmon, a Bachelor of Fine Art Graduate from the Alberta College of Art and Design.