Architect Pamela Ubeda approaches each building as an artist would: every drawing emanates from the tip of her pencil, she has no interns, every email is answered by her and she attends every meeting.
The CEO of Coast and Beam, Pamela designs structures that are tangible representations of the West Coast essence. Because she is directly involved in every aspect of each project she works on, she is hyper aware of every nuance. She’s incredibly thorough in her process to ensure that the final composition is balanced and reflects the values, ideals and nature of its inhabitants.
Pamela is passionate about natural environments that have unique West Coast elements in their settings. She also has a deep appreciation for the intimacy of home that is only heightened by the breathtaking natural surroundings of B.C.
SPRUCE talks to Pamela about the architecture of home, and what homeowners should be aware of when starting their custom build or renovation journey.
What do architects wish homeowners would consider at the start of their “home” journey?
It’s hard to contain excitement when you are ready to make the move but my best advice is, before you buy a property, hire a registered Architect to conduct a zoning review to ensure there are no limitations to your vision. Have them also speak with the municipality on your behalf to ensure there are no foreseeable hidden roadblocks. We are seeing more strict environmental regulations for waterfront properties as well as tree bylaws and it is helpful to know these in advance of purchasing a property.
From there, having this initial work done for you, you will get a good sense if the Architect you have hired is a good fit for you in terms of expertise as well as personality to move forward and work with you on the design of your home.
What would you say homeowners are looking for in a home these days?
When they hire me in particular, they are generally looking for a home that can grow with their family and (sometimes) unforeseen and changing needs. When people choose to build a custom home they see it as their forever home so it has to suit their immediate lifestyle as well as possible future ones that they can’t necessarily envision yet. Having extensive experience I am able to navigate a balance. In terms of design, this lends itself to flexible spaces that can change over time. It also usually means keeping some idea of resale “value” in mind in case they do decide to make a move one day.
Do you work with more custom builds than spec builds?
I work exclusively with custom builds. My expertise lends itself to working directly with the home owner to help them realize their vision. In our real estate climate, they know a custom home will cost them the same as a spec home. People that build custom homes are the type of people willing to take risks for their vision. They know there is a lot of work involved but they also know the reward in the end to have something that is tailor suited to their idea of “home”.
What styles do you gravitate towards?
The styles I gravitate toward and what I practice don’t always align. I have a guilty pleasure for beautifully restored yet modernized century old homes and am halfway through my own renovation of one. The use of wood, large verandas, the scale and proportions of the room, and more recently, an appreciation for the closed floor plan. But despite their charms, I don’t have any interest in replicating them as I know in our environment and climate there are better options. In my own work, I also tend to think less in terms of “style” and more in terms of design process. I was trained in the school of modernism. This school of thought has translated here into what we know as West Coast modern; which is also the “style” I work in; houses that relate back to their natural environment with wood cladding, large overhangs, clerestory windows and whose form blur the boundary between inside and out.
How have your designs changed over the years?
My designs haven’t changed much over the years because my design process and beliefs about architecture haven’t changed. However, there is no doubt that contemporary architecture has to respond to the times in which it lives and I do believe some of the elements are starting to evolve to keep up with the current constraints and issues of the day.
Do you remember your first design to build project?
I have been working in architecture in some capacity or another for the last 30 years since the age of 15 and I have been around it even longer than that as my father built the houses we lived in. But what I consider my first design to build “project” was a piece of furniture I designed, built and entered into a furniture design competition over 20 years ago. I have always had a deep love and appreciation for wood and I had the opportunity to learn some woodworking from my mentor back in the day. It went on to win and be a finalist in some competitions and to my fascination, it has proven to be a contemporary yet timeliness piece. Many lessons in architecture can be found in executing a project like that: proportion, physics, construction, buildability, affordability, materiality, detail, usability and timelessness. I still find myself reflecting on the same concepts when I design full scale homes.