Vancouver Island is home to many significant architectural marvels, but most are remnants of our colonial past. Instances of inspiring contemporary architecture are rare, let alone ones recognized as provincial and national treasures.Just such an example of iconic Canadian design sits on the shores of the Salish Sea, hidden from the gaze of those travelling the winding coastal roads surrounding Metchosin on southern Vancouver Island.
At 67-acres, the sprawling Swanwick Ranch Estate is at once rugged and refined. Past the fields of sheep, bordering the road, overlooking the beachfront looking towards Victoria’s inner harbour, sits a home whose scale and scope rival many of the world’s most iconic residential projects.
Winner of the Canadian Architect Award in 2003 and a Lieutenant-Governor’s Award in 2008, the property’s 10,700 square foot main residence is cantilevered atop a concrete armature. The asymmetrical structure carefully embedded clear of the critical root zones of the surrounding Garry Oak groves. With floors branching astride a central canyon carrying spent hydro-thermal seawater framed by etched glass exterior walls, this innovative retreat blurs the conventional boundaries of both nature and shelter.
Punctuated by grand contemporary lines, the triumphant main residence is, according to its award-winning designer, Marko Simcic, “sustainably entwined” with its site in the heart of one of Canada’s most endangered natural ecosystems - the Garry Oak savannah.
A subtle but defined structural fold encloses a transparent exterior pool, hot tub and patio area which separates the master quarters from the social/guest area. The two residential wings are essentially flat end to end, enjoying massive windows and specifically designed ceilings that welcome natural lightthroughout the interior. The opulent residence counts many unique features within its passive seawater-heated living quarters. Strategically placed floor level windows encourage reflections from the ocean and central canyon river to dance across the hardwood floors and travertine walls. These same walls line the long seamless transitions through the airy living, kitchen, dining and sleeping spaces in the master wing. Residents also enjoy a gourmet kitchen, an ornate modern library, a games room with a floating poker loft, and several semi-covered outdoor spaces perfect for lounging in the sun.
Form and function collaborate beautifully here, with a boat house integrated into the home itself, its mechanical launch extending all the way down to the ocean. Once at sea, amenities such as a one touch home automation system and secure worldwide access to its controls allow residents to remain connected from afar.
Paired with this visionary design is an idyllic coastal setting. Secluded panoramic views of 1,400 linear feet of shoreline and private beach are amplified by the rugged Olympic Mountain range. Swanwick Ranch is a truly world-class location, showcasing the pinnacle of contemporary Canadian architecture in a delicately preserved coastal habitat.
Construction cost of the masterpiece residence alone was a whopping $22-million once completed in 2007, with current land value conservatively estimated at $4.5-million. Furthermore, of the fully-developed oceanfront properties in Canada listed for sale by Sotheby’s, Swanwick is by far the largest; a full 65-acres larger than any other available. Considering the home’s architectural legacy and the property’s size, it can be purchased for a relative bargain at its current list price of $12.9-million.