Timber Trailblazer

Brentwood Town Centre Station, Burnaby, B.C. | Photo: Nic Lehoux
For architect and timber advocate Peter Busby, wood is one of nature’s greatest innovations

Peter Busby sits inside his summer home on the Sunshine Coast, gazing at the many kinds of wood he used when he built the house—every square inch of it—himself. There is the dried driftwood he used vertically, and the six-by-eight Douglas-fir beams that run horizontally, and the one-by-four tongue-and groove boards that traverse the ceiling, which make him feel like he’s tucked inside a boat’s upturned hull.

“It’s a very beautiful kind of seventies detail,” says Busby. “I love wood. I love the warmth and humanity of it. I love working with wood: the cutting, the shaping, and the joining. It’s a very pleasurable material to work with. I came to architecture through construction. I’m a carpenter—and my recreation is to build in wood.”

We are chatting by phone, but he conveys a poetic image seated inside his getaway. While studying for a degree in philosophy, he paid the bills with his carpentry work. At the University of British Columbia’s architecture school, he met Ray Cole, a professor who impressed upon him the idea that design doesn’t operate in isolation, but among people and the environment: “He infused me with the will to work in sustainable architecture for my entire career.” For forty years now, Busby has based his career on being kind to the environment, on getting it right.

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