Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Vancouver Heritage Restoration Program

A few weeks ago Adele Weder published a great piece in the Tyee concerning Vancouver's erstwhile heritage restoration program. At the top of the list of buildings to feel the pinch is the Dal Grauer Substation on Burrard Street. Weder refers to it as a 'gem' and it truly is; it has, unfortunately, been allowed to fade over the years, to the point where it's become almost unnoticeable along one of the city's busiest strips.

But the bones are there and a restoration on this building - including the BC Binning designed colour scheme - would add great flourish to Burrard and tie back in nicely with the Electra next door. As Weder points out, it would also go well beyond mere 'decorating' to remind Vancouverites of the exciting confluence of business, modern architecture and art that the building so beautifully represents.

Graham Residence

In recent weeks the story of the Graham Residence in West Vancouver has received coverage in Vancouver papers. Some links are below.

The condensed story is that the owner of the Arthur Erickson-designed house has applied for a demolition permit, due to an apparent state of disrepair.

Designed in 1962, it is one of the iconic houses in Vancouver, owing much of it's success to Erickson's beautiful handling of the architecture as it steps down a dramatic rocky site above Howe Sound. All the west coast elements are here: large expanses of glass, copious wood, post and beam construction and a conscious relationship to the elements.

Erickson's own book on his work (Tundra Books, 1973) showcases the house well through Simon Scott's photography and shows some commonalities with the later and more well-known Smith Residence.

It's unclear if it will be saved; let's keep our fingers crossed.

Vancouver Heritage Art Show and Talk

Last night was the Vancouver Heritage Foundation's art show focusing on the Vancouver painting scene in the 1960's. It was a follow up to last year's event that covered painting in Vancouver in the 1950's. The evening was hosted by the AIBC at their space and featured a talk by Brian Dedora. The show collected works by artists such as Michael Morris, Roy Kiyooka and Ian Wallace among others.

Brian had some excellent insights into the work, including the idea that these artists were drawing more of their influences from 'popular' culture and that this was reflected across the board: not only in painting, but in performance, photography and video art. Brian stressed Kiyooka's importance to the scene, both as an educator and artist and noted that his later photographic works coincided with the start of the Vancouver School of photography.

One of the most interesting things about this evening (and last years' that showed work by Binning, Jarvis, Smith, Thomas etc.) is the chance to see a unique collection of Vancouver art brought together for the first and most likely last time. A one-off show that provides context and allows the works to reflect off each other.

Thanks to the Diane Switzer and the Vancouver Heritage Foundation for shining a light on our local art and history. And thanks to Brian for the research and excellent commentary.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Romer Residence 2

Here is a photo from a recent visit to the former site of the Romer Residence in West Vancouver. The second and third photos were taken prior to demolition.

The site is now a study in contrasts of architectural approaches. According to Modernist thought (and especially that of the West Coast School) whereby a building's relationship to the land is of paramount importance, the Romer Residence sat perched upon a rocky outcropping that acted as a resting point on the steeply sloping lot. Though some shaping was presumably done when the house was built, the general forms of the land remained and were accommodated in the design.
This approach was meant to strengthen the relationship to the natural world and embrace existing conditions, acknowledging their inherent value.

The first photo shows a radically different tack where the landscape has been considerably altered to accommodate the architectural design. Extensive blasting has been done to create a large, flat base to build on. Where the site was once more convex in general shape, it is now concave with much of the blasted rock forming a loose retaining wall at the lower right corner of the lot.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Modern Tours and Exhibition

Some excellent events are coming up in the next few months in Vancouver. They are organized by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation and focus on modern aspects of the city. There is a walking tour taking in various Modernist landmarks downtown, a residential bus tour of Modernist homes and finally a talk and exhibition focusing on painting in Vancouver from 1960's-1970's. The latter features a talk by noted framer and author Brian Dedora. Links are below.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Romer Residence

Following are a few photos taken last year of The Romer Residence in West Vancouver.

It was designed in the 1950's by Ron Thom and was recently torn down and the lot razed. The place was a modest, subtle home, but displayed many characteristics of Thom's work: large brick hearth in the living room, glass meeting glass at window corners, strip ribbon windows along the south wall and a thoughtful relationship to the landscape.