Modern day architects, be they professional or amateur, practicing in the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest, have frequently turned to the use of native materials.
Can there possibly be any more true organic and native material than the giant softwood trees which abound in the coastal forests. Western Red Cedar, giant Douglas firs, the hemlocks and even the more diminutive pines - all have been used to great effect.
Western red cedar, thuja plicata, has perhaps long been the wood of choice. Going back to the days when the Haida Indians built their incredible long houses from giant logs, one wonders how such magnificent structures were completed using such primitive tools.
Yet built they were, and many of them still stand to this day. A tribute to both their engineering skills and the ability of the wood itself to survive for many decades in the harsh climate in the area.
The majestic cedars are becoming more and more rare with much of the old growth wood being felled today falling far short of the stature of the mighty cedar of a century ago.
Architects of the twenty first century may not have the luxury of using these spectacular timbers from the past, but they have developed what has become known as the West Coast Style.
The proportions have been reduced from the great long houses to that of a modern day home. Almost without exception, these west coast style homes are built overlooking the ocean. It is the job of the architect to make certain that the home takes full advantage of the view, while at the same time blending well into the site.
The very nature of the western red cedar lends itself perfectly to an organically designed house. Here on the west coast, the landscape is bold and rugged. The land rises abruptly from the sea sometimes thousands of feet with hardly a break. It takes a certain type of house to suit this terrain, and there can surely be no more perfect building material than the majestic trees of the Pacific Northwest coast.
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Keith Elliott is a retired builder with an extended interest in organic architecture, particularly that of the Pacific Northwest where he lives.
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