Refuge on the Bay of Fundy
Centre Burlington, Canada
MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited
Diana Carl (Teaching Assistant) William Green (Teaching Assistant)
The project directives were two-fold: to create a shelter for local trail users and fishermen and to use the construction of the project as a learning tool for architecture students with little exposure to the processes and conditions of building. The users needed a place for rest, for storage, and for warmth. This was translated as a place to sit, to sleep, to eat, to meet: a single room to provide a great amount of amenity. The project focused on the traditional use of wood at many scales. Wood was obtained from local mills and serves as structural system, wall, floor, and roof. Cladding, furniture, and windows were also made from wood. Building on traditional understandings of wood construction, different species of wood were selected based on their natural properties and application. The building’s exposed structure (beams and floor joists) was built with hemlock for its rot-resistance while the protected structure (stud framing) and interior finishes are spruce. The roof and long exterior walls are wrapped with white cedar shingles which contain natural preservatives and are adapted to the local climate. The gable ends are clad with a vertical hemlock screen that serves both as a rain screen and also creates a dramatic lighting condition on the interior - reminiscent of local agricultural barns. At night, this effect is reversed and the building becomes a glowing lantern in the woods.
This simple and restrained project focuses on the study of place and craft. As part of a design/build program at the Dalhousie University School of Architecture, the project was constructed over three summers by architecture students under the direction of Talbot Sweetapple, in the tradition of the Ghost Laboratory. This annually held program provides students with two weeks of hands-on building experience to complement studio-based learning. The development and construction of Refuge served as a teaching device for architecture students eager to gain a practical understanding of wood construction by ‘doing’. The site was a point of intersection between trail and fishing point, hidden among the birches and sheltered by a great oak tree, a thin line of vegetation separating it from the coastline. Local trail users and fishermen needed protection from the elements, and the project evolved to become a pavilion of shelter including aspects of refuge, outlook, and focus.
The building itself is a straightforward response to a need for shelter. The harsh winter winds off the Bay of Fundy are tempered by the tight walls around, and warm hearth within. The cedar roof protects from the unpredictable and frequent spring rains. Consisting of a central gathering space supported by a series of sleeping nooks and totemic elements, Refuge provides a resting place along the trail system to serve local community groups: a warming hut for skiers, a lunch and resting point for a horse riding club, and storage and shelter for local fishermen. A central table built from reclaimed timber is the focal point of the many meals shared here. The long plain benches are the best place to sit and enjoy the heat radiating from the hearth. The lofts are cozy places to unroll a mat and sleeping bag for the night. The Refuge makes little impact on its remote site. Invisible from the water, even those using the trail may pass by unaware. Its pier foundation makes minimal mark on the earth; the forest floor passes undisturbed beneath the floating structure, as if each pier is just another tree trunk.