This compact laneway house in Vancouver, B.C., was designed for a daughter moving back to the site of her childhood home, where her mother still lives. The new, 640-square-foot abode complies with the city’s laneway housing program, which encourages construction of detached units on laneways to increase soft density. While the program enables homeowners to build rental units, it also creates opportunities, such as it did for this family, for multi-generational living and aging-in-place.
"The daughter lives in the laneway, her mother in the existing main house," says Javier Campos, principal designer at Campos Studio. "The laneway program allowed her to move back into the same neighborhood where she grew up and reunify the family in a way that would allow them to support each other across generations."
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For this project, Campos Studio did not want the laneway house to appear as a miniature Craftsman-revival build, which is a predominant style in Vancouver neighborhoods. Instead, the firm embraced an intentionally asymmetric form as a nod to the family’s Japanese heritage. "The design intended to reflect Japanese traditions that defined the family for generations, embracing qualities that impart imperfection and maintain a strong connection to the natural environment," says Campos.
"The exterior of the laneway is defined by materials that assert their imperfection," says Campos. The dark color of the metal and shakes stands in sharp contrast to additional exterior detailing, including a soffit and walls clad in white, hand-stained cedar boards, their lightness foretelling the house’s interior.
According to Campos, the challenge of designing a laneway house is making the small footprint feel larger. "The intent of the laneway program was to provide affordable housing through soft density. It has brought ongoing challenges to building form because of the minimal space allowed by this housing typology (640 square feet) to provide a truly livable environment," says Campos. "The challenge was to overcome the limitations of such a small space, and an even smaller footprint, to create serenity and variation. Where it is not the amount of space that matters, but rather the perception of that space as expansive and complex."
It is not the amount of space that matters, but rather the perception of that space as expansive and complex.
—Javier Campos, architect
"My favorite detail is the way the exterior is framed by the window openings to create a continuous ribbon that expands the interior with focused views of the green spaces," says Campos. "These carefully arranged scenes expand each interior space in a slightly different way, creating a variation and unity that enhance the spaces."
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Builder: Boyd Co. Construction
Structural Engineer: Equilibrium