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WL Architects of the Year 2022: Measured Architecture
Vancouver architect Tony Robins thinks outside the box (pun intended) to design the polarizing Cube House.
On a coveted corner in Vancouver’s Point Grey neighbourhood, there’s a house unlike any other that makes us question our perceptions of home. Lacking the generic rooftop, windows and fence that we’ve come accustomed to seeing, the “Cube House” is a 2,280-square-foot residence that has been the centre of everyone’s attention since construction began in 2016. Its boxy design, lack of windows on the upper levels and fully exposed ground floor received criticism from onlookers, who called it an “eyesore,” a “box with a skirt,” and a “concrete bunker,” among other things. One local blogger even nominated the house for “Vancouver’s Most Hideous Urban Design of 2016.”But that didn’t stop architect Tony Robins (a former WL Designer of the Year winner!) from moving forward with the project. “It was a construction site,” he says. “I thought it was unfair to judge it then, but I think people are coming around. The neighbours love it, which is very important to me because they’re looking at it every day.”Robins, together with Keystone Projects, wanted a minimal aesthetic to engender a feeling of calm throughout the home—while also complementing the surrounding area. “I think the neighbourhood needed an iconic sculpture on the corner,” Robins adds. “It’s nice to be a little bit edgier and to push people a bit and get them to think beyond their preconceptions of what a house looks like.”Whether you love it or hate it, the Cube House (once valued at $10 million) is now on the market for $14,000,000—and WL got a peek inside. Read on for details about the controversial space.
The exterior of the Cube House is finished with dark metal sheathing—and is without windows on the south side, a sharp contrast from the completely exposed ground level. Despite its already capacious appearance, the two-bedroom house feels even larger on the inside: there are four floors, including a basement garage and a rooftop deck. The rooftop deck has glass railings that allow for a view of the water from the hot tub. “I don’t do that many houses, so it’s not very often that I have one that’s right downtown, in this area where I can show people,” says Robins.The rooftop deck might be the home’s best-kept secret. It’s largely invisible from the outside, but features a large hot tub and an outdoor kitchen with sweeping views of Vancouver. Depending on which direction you’re facing, you may even catch a glimpse of nearby parks, English Bay or the downtown horizon. The master bedroom looks out onto a nearby park.”I wanted the home to be very expansive,” says Robins. “All the views are different.” He designed the bedrooms on the third floor with a particular appreciation for the outdoors: “I got very selective of where the windows are and what they look at. The master bedroom looks at the park, but there’s a thin view that goes out into the water,” he says. “It’s all about that balance between the inside and the outside.” Motorized blinds on the glass windows can be used to create privacy in this otherwise open space. The kitchen island, designed by Robins, is made of Calcutta marble. Robins also used the space underneath the staircase to store kitchen appliances.Though the bedrooms have a sense of privacy, the kitchen, dining and living rooms are more of a public space: finished with large porcelain floor tiles and modern furnishings, the ground floor walls are almost entirely made of glass, allowing everyone to peer inside.Robins has been told repeatedly by passersby that his Cube House doesn’t look like a home, but it doesn’t faze him: “I think it’s nice to create something of interest instead of another boring house.”
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