After reading pieces Robyn Lawrence wrote for Care2.com and Natural Home & Garden about Quietude, a 280 sq. ft. cottage built in the hills south of me, I wanted to know something about the architect, Henry Yorke Mann.
It wasn’t just the low cost that caught my eye, though $28,000 for a permanent structure is something even I could afford. What attracted me was the rich warmth of the wood, the careful attention to detail, the way everything worked to give a sense of openness and space, all designed around a mandala. Here was an architect who not only respected a client with a small budget but who clearly meant it when he wrote, “We are building sacred places, as distinct from profane places, to add layers of experience and importance to life patterns.”
Mann follows in some pretty big footsteps, as son of one master builder and grandson of another, but he clearly chooses his own path. He carved out an early niche, left the field for homesteading and cattle ranching, and a quarter of a century later returned to architecture. Now he works with a sensitivity to clients, land, and the environment—not just in a physical sense but to the spirit of all three.
Sometimes I get discouraged when I see how we two-leggeds settle into a stunning landscape, like the Okanagan Valley where I live, and then proceed to scar it with mediocre and purely awful architecture. Mann proves we don’t have to do that. Our homes and businesses can be not only easy on the earth but stunningly beautiful.
Each storey of his Eagle Tower wraps like circled wings above the one below. Totems, a 400 sq. ft. cabin with a 150 sq. ft. loft, nestles into its site as if it had grown from the landscape. Manndala, the architect’s own residence, is a prayer of wood and warmth.
Mann’s work restores my hope that such places of such beauty need not be only for the wealthy. Describing Totems, he writes, “One often hears comments to the effect that ‘They can’t build like that any more,’ suggesting that there are no craftsmen in our modern society. However, there will always be persons who care passionately about creating items of value, beauty and craftsmanship. They only need the opportunity.”
Some day I would love to live in a home designed by Henry Yorke Mann.