Planta Point: the story


Quayle Property – Planta Point Nanaimo
3560 Planta Road/ 3550 Stephenson Point Road

There is a cedar bench beneath an Arbutus Tree on a point of consolidated rock above the sea. We call it Planta Point, my family home for over fifty years.

Planta Point History.

This has been a good place to live for a long time: traditions from the Snuneymuxw First Nations traditional territory, to mid-nineteenth century Europeans who found the protected harbour and bay to the south, for which they adopted an anglicized name, Nanaimo. A generation or two later, two sea captains, Yates and Stephenson, noted a point of land and rock along the coast a half-dozen kilometres north of the town limits – nestled between a rock bluff rising to the south of the property and a rock bluff down to the Georgia Strait. Ideal for summer homes to get away from the bustle of Nanaimo in the early years of the twentieth century.

Nanaimo itself was originally carefully planned around nineteenth century principles of beautiful cities; incrementally the City limits moved south and north and by the 1970s Planta Point was part of the central city as adjacent marshlands were drained for housing. From a rural route address, the city grew up around Planta Road – a federal ocean research station and beach-side amenities were now within walking distance, a modern ferry terminal and marina, hospital and impressive golf-course within a ten-minute drive. By the twenty-first century a new arts centre, and a new convention center were complete, and a a new cruise-ship terminal under construction. Yet Planta Point with its second growth timber and buffer of Planta Park remains secluded in the city.

The Traditional: A Brown House.

In the early days of the twentieth century, Captain Yates built a home for his wife, Beatrix Planta, next door to the Brown House. It does not survive, but our Brown House of the Planta Point property at 3560 Planta Road was completed likely at the same time, sometime around 1915-17 by Captain Stephenson. It has the original fir floors and stone foundation and chimneys built of rock, rock not indigenous to BC but likely from Hawaii, brought back as ballast on ships which took Nanaimo coal to those islands. We always called it The Brown House growing up because, well, that’s what it was and is. My father, Dr. Dan Quayle, a marine biologist and islander from a coal-mining family, bought it for us in the early 1960s. I was the third-generation of Quayles in greater Nanaimo. We were all enchanted by the feathered namesake quails which parade through the property every spring.

My Dad was born to a sea-faring and coal-mining family. A aircraft navigator in the war, he was one of the many success stories of survival and then post-war access to advanced education. His love of the sea led to marine biology and later a respected world authority on bivalve molluscs (oysters were his friends).

Dad’s work often took him into the field for studies in distant and secluded bays for weeks at a time, so many memories of growing up are pretty much a two- person cast: Mom and I. My mother was the first public health nurse on the Island, and laughingly recalls how she gamely pointed her 1940s Fords north to help smaller villages and communities. By the 1960s she had her hands full with a new daughter. She discovered around the same time that a combination of a rocky soil and cute vegetarians called deer made life as a gardener challenging. My mother quickly learned that rhododendrons were not only amazingly beautiful in foliage and flower, but flourished.

I spent thirteen years learning to play the piano in the great front room, and many evenings playing Scrabble with my parents. At some point my father had dragged a cedar bench down to Planta Point to watch the tides. At the time the fish were so plentiful that I refined my math skills by helping my father take stock of little fishing boats – it was not unusual to see more than one hundred off the Point even in the 1960s. Twenty five years later I wooed Dave with the view; fifty years later Dave and I had refinished and restored and protected that old bench until our millennium gift to ourselves was the current swinging bench made from Island cedar on the west-coast of the Island.

The Planta Point bench is a fine spot for lime and sodas, or gin and tonics, on a late summer’s afternoon. The view to the north along the water is The Spit, a regional park within an easy walk, row or even swim to its narrow neck of land to sculptured rocks and Gary oaks. Its rocky beach is where I learned to love to swim; now other generations favour it in the summer to launch sailboards and kayaks. To the south is a working channel, with BC Ferries and log booms, fishing boats and sail boats. Our fauna includes a pair of eagles who visit often; otter and seals are seasonal guests; small island deer often stroll past our windows at dawn or dusk; owl and woodpeckers appreciate the standing timber. At the foot of Planta Point is a rocky beach we call our own, complete with a tidal basin just right for getting in and out of the clear north-west Pacific waters.

It was all of this, but perhaps most persuasively it was the air on the Point which led to building the beach house. There is a remarkable difference even in the few hundred meters between the Brown House and the Point in the quality of the air. You can hear and feel and see the difference: the Point is of the sea, fresh and clean under grey skies and grey seas or blue skies and glassy water, layered with the sounds of gulls and eagles and seals and people on the water below.

Planta Point – A New Home and Studios – The Beach House

In the early 1990s we were looking out the picture window of The Brown House we noticed that the orientation and topography of the site allowed a summer home and studios to be tucked into the landscape. We spent the next two years thinking and planning and walking the site, and improving the path to the beach, before breaking ground. With the good graces and humour of my mother, as an eighty-year old site superintendent, Planta Point evolved as a beach house for us.

The design was an eclectic process of values and ideas we developed with input from my colleagues in the School of Architecture at UBC. The siting was born of our respect for the land. Many of our architectural ideas needed Richard Nash, our builder from Lantzville up the coast a bit, to work his magic. The concept of beach house as a collection of modules, and the central courtyard, were inspired by a small town in the foothills of Greece. The raised breakfast terrace was a gift of a record snow fall in 1996; we carved the snow into the raised terrace (the angle of which points due north). The stone access bridge with its Roman arches was completed by Dave in time for Christmas, 1997.

We wanted a place of beauty and comfort with pragmatic solutions for heating, power-failures and abundant rain. Its still a work in progress, but our approach is in the details such as:

• Siting the home to face the forest on one side and the sea on the other;

  • Sourcing the rock (conglomerate) for siteworks adjacent to the house, and for the bridge and fireplace (and prospective lower-level and facing) to match that of the Nanaimo formation beach rock – finding it in a quarry at Spider Lake in the interior of the island.
  • Sourcing the stone for the courtyard and patio paving of Nanaimo-formation sandstone, but the predominant local colour is blue-grey, so after some work to get the warm tan colour we found a private quarry on Maine Island in the Southern Gulf Islands;
  • Sourcing the clear fir for the cabinetry from the island, which in the mid-90s meant that it was repatriated from Japanese wholesalers out of a lumber yard in Washington state,
  • A commitment to local woods and work — the balcony is capped with a yellow cedar rail, now weathered, and windows are local fir and custom made.
  • Designing the watercourse on Japanese gardening principles of balance; all of the rock forming the watercourse was brought in, carefully placed and adjusted for sight and sound, and environmental protection;
  • Rebuilding the temporary boat shed of the same dimensions, look and feel as the original from the late 1940s, and;
  • Creating a small vegetable and flower garden with custom-designed fencing to minimize visual impact while respecting our visiting deer, otter and rabbits.
  • We intended to be here a long time. The house has deep foundations, and double walls for ten inches of protection from the elements, and secondary circuits for generator power (although power loss is not as much of an issue now). Our home includes provision for a dumb-waiter to ease the use of stairs, and a steam room, to ease the use of our bodies. Our studios interlink.

Cosy fires in the winter and breakfasts on the terrace in the spring, barbques on the patio in the summer, and many gatherings of friends and family in the courtyard; we love the sound of the sea and watercourse in winter storms, and the soft colours of our bulbs and trees in the spring and fall. Warm radiant heat on bare feet in the winter, and baths on a plinth of island marble, looking out across the water. We smile at the fresh air and sounds from the water, and increasingly present bambis and eaglets. I even enjoy doing the dishes with a million dollar view which changes with the light and weather. And we will miss sitting on the rocking bench at Planta Point.

Sometimes we are asked for a favourite view, or room. Planta Point was designed as a sequence of experiences, with attention to detail. Look closely. These trees and ferns and rocks and walls have seen us grow in fields of business and law, government and academia. I love my studio and the master balcony. That cedar protecting us from eastern storm winds was barely the height of the balcony when we moved in in 1997. I love sitting in the living area and looking through the arbutus to the water, or into the woods on the other side of the room. We planted the birch and the pear trees. A few quirks are the front door and kitchen wall, but these were of the moment and can be changed; a more lasting quirk is the need to leave a car and walk down a forest path and across a footbridge, or through a small garden, to get home.

Moura and Dave

Quayle/Fushtey Notes 01Aug12


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