Fergie’s Cafe in Squamish Elevates Modern Dining into the Forest Canopy
British Columbia is dotted with countless stretches of highway that make for a good road trip, and though much of the province has been devastated by flooding in recent weeks, the Sea to Sky highway between Vancouver and Whistler remains safe for travel. That in mind, the sharp chassis and 475 kilometre range of BMW’s new iX make it an ideal counterpart for the coastal highway. For those unfamiliar, the newly rebuilt Fergie’s Cafe in Squamish is one of those destinations equally worthwhile of a visit for its stunning architecture as it is for its creative and locally-sourced menu.
Those more familiar with the region will no doubt be able to plot the route on their own, whereas others will benefit from the intuitive interaction with BMW iDrive 8’s navigation system. Through this system users can plot out the entire journey, including the route to brunch, as well as other scenic waypoints along the way. This would also be the place where drivers can configure the chassis settings of the iX, including stiffening the suspension and sharpening its throttle response for a more spirited drive up the coastline. Our recommendation would be a late morning departure from Vancouver, leaving time for a long and relaxing brunch at Fergie’s. From there, one could carry on into Whistler, or double back down for an afternoon/evening in the city.
Much of a great design’s success lies in its ability to reframe a difficult challenge as a positive opportunity, and this is exactly the case with Fergie’s Cafe. The minimalist monolith is a testament to what’s possible when business owners bounce back from hardship by taking their original vision to soaring new heights. Thanks to a wholehearted embrace of bold modern design, the restaurant returned from an unfortunate fire more remarkable than ever before.
Since 2010, Fergie’s Cafe has anchored Jake and Jess Freese’s Sunwolf Riverside Resort collection of rental properties, while also serving as a beloved brunch spot for the surrounding community. (Having evolved from an old fishing destination known as Fergie’s Lodge, the restaurant’s full legacy extends back even further.) After the ash settled from an April 2018 blaze that destroyed their original cafe building, a charming but rustic blue cabin, the Freeses recognized a rare chance to introduce a new setting as remarkable as their food. That said, their restaurant’s remote site — which is located in both a flood plain and a seismic zone — posed no shortage of red flags when it came to rebuilding.
On the other hand, the woodsy location also boasted plenty of positive attributes that, with the proper approach, had the potential to make for a true destination dining environment worthy of long road trips. The majestic Mount Alpha and Squamish River lie to the north, while lush forest greenery — including a particularly spectacular 100-year-old black walnut tree — sits in all directions. To show appropriate sensitivity to this landscape, and to reflect Fergie’s growing sustainability ethos, minimizing the design’s environmental impact became another of the project’s primary concerns.
The Freeses tasked Squamish architecture studio hunterOFFICE with envisioning a replacement building that would appropriately honour their restaurant’s past while also leading it in a bold new direction. In sharp contrast to the modest cabin it replaces, Hunter’s daring design shifts the action way up into the sky. The kitchen and bar now sit 10 feet off the ground on concrete foundation columns that keep the restaurant well above the floodplain while also sheltering a covered communal seating area underneath that expands capacity during summer months. That said, it’s worth arriving early enough to score a spot on the cantilevered outdoor deck, which provides the most exceptional mountain views. More great vantage points await along a fully accessible cedar boardwalk that links the parking lot to the restaurant entrance.
To make this impressive structure even more striking, hunterOFFICE’s design embraces a dark, moody material palette of black-stained timber, steel beams, and rusted plate steel. Along with using environmentally friendly prefab timber panels for flooring and ceiling, the building also incorporates earth tubes, a passive geothermal system of underground pipes that use the temperature of deep soil to help with heating and cooling. Ample use of natural light is another smart sustainability strategy.
Both the interior and exterior of BMW’s iX play a similar design game as the redesign of Fergie’s Cafe, from its angular dash and door panels, through to the dark and moody interior aesthetic, complemented by light accents. It’s not every day that we see a true intersection of automotive design and architecture, and yet the pairing of these two seems oddly cohesive.
As for the menu? Expect a bounty of fresh and locally sourced fare. House-smoked potatoes are a highlight, while Negronis are on tap to help wash them down.
By building something far better than what came before it, hunterOFFICE has reaffirmed that the best innovations come from tackling problems head-on. Demonstrating a clear commitment to a more environmentally friendly future, Frankie’s Cafe has evolved into one of the most spectacular — and sustainable — places to enjoy a plate of Eggs Benedict. Talk about starting your day right.
Images courtesy of Darby Magill and Ema Peter Photography