retro modern concept house 01
retro modern concept house 01

Vintage at home: 23.2, a retro modern concept house

Last updated:

Nestled in the natural splendour of rural Vancouver, Canada, Omer Arbel’s 23.2 House is a harmonious blend of architectural innovation and environmental integration. With its thoughtful placement and unique material composition, this single-family home exemplifies how modern design can coexist with nature, paying homage to the inherent beauty of the land while pushing the boundaries of conventional architecture.

A confluence of natural elements

At the heart of the 23.2 House design philosophy is a deep connection with the surrounding landscape. Situated between two swathes of ancient forest, each with its own ecology and light conditions, the house acts as a bridge, bringing together these contrasting natural environments. This strategic location not only highlights the diversity of the site’s flora and fauna, but also creates a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces, fostering a living experience deeply rooted in nature.

Reclaimed wood as sacred artefacts

The architectural genesis of the 23.2 House was a collection of century-old Douglas fir beams salvaged from demolished warehouses. These beams, varying in length and size, were treated with reverence, their integrity preserved as sacred artefacts. The decision to retain their raw, untouched state guided the structural design of the house, resulting in the adoption of a triangular geometry that could accommodate the varying dimensions of the beams while creating coherent, narratively rich spaces.

An architectural landscape

Omer Arbel’s innovative use of reclaimed beams culminates in the creation of a habitable roofscape that showcases the natural beauty of wood against the backdrop of Canada’s west coast. This secondary landscape, draped over the gentle slope of the site, features folds that define the relationship between the interior and exterior of the house, ensuring that each interior space mirrors its outdoor counterpart. The strategic positioning and manipulation of these folds blurs the boundaries between inside and outside, enhancing the integration of the house with its surroundings.

Blurring the boundaries between indoors and outdoors

The 23.2 House challenges traditional notions of indoors and outdoors through its structural and design elements. Key corners of the house are deliberately left undefined, with curved steel columns pulling the structure away from these junctions, further dissolving the barrier between the home and the natural world. Large accordion door systems enhance this effect, allowing entire facades to retract, completely erasing the separation between the home’s interior and the lush landscape that surrounds it.

A curated interior

Inside, 23.2 House is a testament to Omer Arbel’s meticulous curation of vintage and contemporary design elements. The interior is adorned with a mix of vintage prototypes and limited edition pieces by Vancouver designers from the 1960s and 70s, alongside modern furnishings that echo the vintage aesthetic. This carefully selected assemblage of furniture and decor creates a dialogue between past and present, celebrating the region’s design heritage while embracing modern trends.

The bottom line

Omer Arbel’s 23.2 House is a beacon of architectural innovation that seamlessly blends the rich history of reclaimed materials with contemporary design principles. It is a space where past and present come together to provide a living experience that is both deeply connected to the natural environment and reflective of modern aesthetic sensibilities. Through its thoughtful design and integration with the landscape, 23.2 House redefines the possibilities of modern architecture and serves as a reminder of the potential for harmony between human habitation and the natural world.

Date: 2008 – 2010
Gross floor area: 5000 ft2 | 465 m2
Client: Randy Bishop
Designer: Omer Arbel Office
Contractor: Brad Martin of Treeline Construction
Structural: Andrew McLellan of Structural Solutions
Geotechnical: Geotech Geothermal
Building Envelope: Code Compliant

Project Team: Omer Arbel, Mark Dennis