Designers of the Year Photo Credit: Yukko Onley and Robert Lemermeyer

Architecture Designers of the Year 2008: Measured

Our winners are partners in a firm that didn’t even exist a year ago—a company with just a few exquisite finished projects to its name.

Measured’s Clinton Cuddington and Matthew Woodruff aren’t exactly neophytes. Both were working as senior architects with Vancouver’s Bing Thom Architects, managing large institutional projects in Canada and the U.S. for one of Canada’s most prestigious firms, when they decided the time had come to strike out on their own. In the early months of this year, they struck out with a bang that most young firms would yearn to duplicate.
Their first project seen by the public wasn’t even a building. It was an audacious, if admittedly fanciful, proposal to save a relic industrial building near Granville Island by converting it into a venue for circuses and similar spectacles. It was originally Cuddington’s thesis project (under advisors Clifford Wiens and Bill Pechet) but became part of a theoretical exhibition called Harbingers + Joints, unveiled in March 2008. “Putting that kind of work into something that won’t be built is important to us,” says Cuddington.

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Then in April 2008, their first built project, a Gulf Islands retreat built for Woodruff and his family, received a Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Award of Merit—and later showed up on the website of the influential San Francisco-based modernist magazine Dwell. “The use of local materials, sensitivity to site and light, sustainability features and the variations on the typology of ‘island cabin’ contribute to a local regional design,” says judge Arthur Erickson on the design.

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In the same week, Cuddington’s own freshly uncrated 7,000-square-foot Wolfe Avenue residence (shown here) attracted media notice as a rare modernist structure in Vancouver’s Shaughnessy, where a neighbourhood design panel generally favours heritage-style homes. Shortly afterward, it starred on Ballet British Columbia’s home and garden tour. Judge Jeremy Sturgess admires in these projects a “loving attention to detail and craft, at both the modest and high levels of the palate.”
Beyond their striking appearance, both completed residences are models of passive energy efficiency. Each was designed with the potential to some day be pulled off the electricity grid—not terribly surprising for a Gulf Islands retreat but more so for a mansion in one of Vancouver’s most established neighbourhoods. Cuddington is waiting for improved next-generation solar panels before unplugging the power meter, but in the meantime the house incorporates green-ovations such as a green roof and a near-complete absence of vinyl, the ubiquitous compound that is beginning to receive notoriety as an environmental pariah. The firm carefully considered how each area of the house would look and function using primarily natural light. Says Cuddington: “We’ve tried to take something as mundane as energy usage and embrace the poetic cycle within it.” Other easily overlooked but important features include a design and landscaping plan that virtually eliminates storm water runoff, an issue of particular importance in the neighbourhood.
With continued good fortune—and a few more quality examples such as these from Measured—the less technically inclined protectors of our residential streetscapes will soon be doing the same thing. Judge Brian Hemingway echoes our hope that “we will be seeing more thoughtful, thorough and modern work coming from their boards.” -WL

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