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Project of the Week – Liard River Hot Springs

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Architect: FormLine Architecture + Urbanism
Photos: Alfred Waugh

Surrounded by the majestic beauty of Boreal Forest in Northern British Columbia, Liard River Hot Springs is a stress-busting spa like no other. For starters, in order to access these sacred pools of therapeutic water, guests must first embark on a scenic journey down a ¼ mile cedar walkway through pristine woods.

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Secondly, Liard is completely off the grid. Perhaps, not surprisingly, this lack of electricity resulted in some fairly interesting design challenges for FormLine Architecture + Urbanism.

“We had to think about how to maximize natural light into the change rooms,” says FormLine partner, Alfred Waugh. “Our solution was to use a semi-translucent Lexan panels which turned out well.”

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But the most unique design feature worked into this Wood Design Awards winner has to be the bear peepholes in the change-room doors. These apertures enable guests to safely spy on any grizzlies that may be lurking about the outskirts of the property during the fall months.
As for materials, it was important for Waugh and co. to seamlessly integrate these change rooms with the natural and cultural landscape. That’s why they chose to clad this change-room pavilion in western red cedar siding. But that’s not the only reason they chose one of nature’s most beautiful and versatile building materials.

“The properties of western red cedar allow for the structure to withstand the environment, particularly in its resistance to weathering, mold, fungus and insect attack,” says Waugh. “This is very important because the air surrounding the facility creates humid streams of mineral-rich mist – the presence of phenolic oils in western red cedar helps to maintain its durability under such dramatic climactic conditions.”

They also wanted a long-lasting material that never overheats and; therefore, always soft to the touch for all those barefooted soakers. Suffice to say, western red cedar’s thermal and enduring characteristics made it the easy choice.

“It’s very low shrinkage factor and resistance to warping, twisting and checking also meant that it would be able to withstand the harsh environment without compromising its aesthetic integrity,” says Waugh.

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Yet another incentive to use WRC on this outdoor oasis is the wood’s inherently soothing scent.

Waugh explains: “The aromatic quality of western red cedar produces a calming and relaxing feeling as the sweet fresh aromatic oils release, adding to the total therapeutic hot spring experience.”

WRC Specifications
Grade: Clear A, S4S, vertical grain western red cedar
Size: 2 x 6 boards covering a total area of 2500 ft2
Fastening: Stainless steel self-drilling bugle headed square socket (Robertson) drive wood screws.
Applied Finnish: 2 coats broad – Pro tek-tar Deck-Rail by CBR products.