The Temple is the House: A Sacred Cedar Home

Finely crafted with solid cedar timbers, this retreat on British Columbia's Gambier Island proves that building a good home is a sacred act.

| July/August 2008

Building a house is a journey. It requires—and builds—stamina, patience and vision. It’s not for the faint of heart, and many who embark on it find themselves, at some point, questioning their motivation.

Building a house designed by architect Henry Yorke Mann takes the journey to another level. Mann’s homes are built with solid wood timbers and complex joinery; the solidity shows itself in massive beams and exposed structures. Building one of Mann’s houses is a warrior’s journey—a rich and sometimes wrenching adventure that leads to spiritual, physical and emotional growth.

Bruce Ramus, a creative director who travels extensively, and his then-wife, Lynne Ozone, asked Mann to design a home on Gambier Island, off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, where they could escape the pressure of their busy lives. “When I was in Kyoto, I saw how many significant temples use large-scale elements in building,” Bruce says. “I knew it worked there, but I was unsure if it would also work in a house. Henry said there was no reason a temple couldn’t be a residence.”

Bruce and Lynne found a heavily wooded site overlooking Bowen Island and Horseshoe Bay, accessible only by water taxi. “I wanted to build something that meant something to the site, to the heritage of the land,” Bruce says. “I’m very much influenced by native architecture, and I wanted something that resonated with Western Canada.”

Built like fine furniture

The son and grandson of master builders, Mann has been practicing his unique brand of sacred architecture since 1962. He brings to his designs a reverence for his clients’ practical and spiritual needs, as well as for the site. “It is not so much a matter of design,” he says, “but also how well you understand the sun, the rain, the moon and gravity—as well as the sum of all these interrelations.”

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