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The Bermudian

Westcoast

Designed by Stephen and Tripp West, Westport Architecture

How did a tiny office in Flatts, measuring only 5,363 square feet inside and out, manage to clinch the winning title in the commercial category this year? Westcoast, designed by Stephen and Tripp West of Westport Architecture, ticked all the boxes: it is aesthetically charming, it is totally in keeping with its context, the attention to detail in the design and finishing is superb and the architects successfully overcame some sizable technical challenges. “They’ve gone so much further in detail and design and the ‘wow’ factor, that for me it’s a hands-down winner,” summed up one judge. “Contextually, they have nailed it.”According to Tripp West, the setting in Flatts and the view of “the prettiest inlet in the world” were driving forces in the design. The Wests have long been at the forefront of the drive to regenerate Flatts Village. Westcoast, which can provide office space for one or two boutique-type companies, is their latest contribution to that effort.

“We decided to apply for a two-storey commercial building that on the inside would accommodate today’s exacting needs of a company requiring modern, high-end, well-designed space, while honouring the traditional architecture and charm of Flatts Village as well as the inlet, ” said Tripp.

Although there were many complications to building on the site, perhaps the most challenging was meeting the planning requirement to provide on-site parking. That meant going underground, 2.5 feet below sea level.

“We began by constructing a sea wall just before we started to excavate the site,” said Tripp. “Since most of Flatts Village on the waterside is landfill, dating back to the creation of North Shore, we needed to reach hard rock for the foundation. To achieve this, we had to drive 36 piles, with the deepest being 90 feet. Next came the slab, which was particularly tricky because it had to be poured while dodging the tides. At this juncture, we were at the mercy of Mother Nature’s schedule, not the contractors’. Once the lower level was created and waterproofed, we were able to start coming out of the ground, and eight weeks later we were celebrating the roof wetting.” The six-space car park is designed to cope with flooding on those occasions when extreme high water inundates Flatts.

From the roadside, the building looks like it has been there forever, with cedar windows, buttresses (which hide the drainpipes), gabled entrance and traditional lines.
“In fact, many people are hard-pressed to remember what was on the site before,” said Tripp. “They are surprised when I remind them it was a parking lot.”

Inside, the building exquisitely combines the old and the new, as epitomized by the traditional cedar sash windows with laminated, soundproof glazing. “We’re most pleased with the subtle combination of the traditional design with a modern twist,” said Tripp. “Once you go inside you experience the quite unexpected modern open plan and function of the building.”

High, open ceilings and bamboo flooring give a fresh, contemporary feel, and the fixtures and fittings in the kitchenette and bathrooms—supplied by Waterworks, Sub-Zero, Viking, Fisher & Paykel and Dornbracht—are state-of-the-art.

The most impressive design features, however, involve the waterfront façade. The Wests have taken full advantage of the spectacular inlet view by installing an enormous cedar bay window on the ground floor; it overhangs the water, offering a 180-degree perspective that evokes the feeling of being in an aquarium. Beneath is a private, floating dock, custom built in Canada, which will moor up to three boats. Above there is an expansive second-storey terrace, perfect for entertaining, which has been fitted with clear-glass panels instead of railings to give an unobstructed vista right across Harrington Sound.

 

Westcoast has just one critical design flaw, as noted by one of the judges. Faced with such a distracting view from the office, how would anyone ever get any work done?

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