Thursday, December 22, 2011

Binning Residence Funding

The Government of Canada recently announced some much needed financial support for the Binning residence.

Parks Canada, through the National Historic Sites Cost-Sharing Program will contribute $11,000 for the preparation of a site conservation plan. That amount will match a contribution by the Land Conservancy of British Columbia, who took over the site after Jessie Binning's death in 2007.

It's a drop in the bucket, but it's a start that acknowledges the Binning residence's national historic importance.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Canadian Architect Awards

The 2011 Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence winners have been announced.

Amongst the winners are West Coast firms Patkau, Hughes Condon Marler and B+H Bunting Coady.

The awards were juried by Walter Francl, Diarmuid Nash and Peter Sampson.

Image: UBC Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences/CDRD by Saucier + Perrotte Architectes w/ Hughes Condon Marler Architects

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Architecture of Religion: Redeemer Lutheran Church

The Redeemer Lutheran Church sits on a busy strip of Granville Street, nestled into its mature Shaughnessy environs.

It was designed in 1959 by Thompson Berwick & Pratt and shortlisted for the 1961 round of Massey Medals.

It's part of a group of buildings in Vancouver–St. John's, Shaugnessy Heights United, Granville Chapel and Unitarianthat reflected a renewed mid-century interest in religious architecture.

They highlight a shared concern between modernist architects and religious orders in harnessing light, though with admittedly different connotations.

Exterior from Granville Street

Front entrance

There is an optimism and clarity to these buildings that sets them apart from more traditional religious architecture. The Redeemer Lutheran in particular is a straightforward, cost-conscious design that draws on prevailing architectural trends of the 1950's.

Side entrance

A classic A-frame form, supported by concrete buttresses, splays out on the sides with flat-roofed areas for offices, entrances and meeting rooms. A secondary building is connected by a covered breezeway.

Central skylight

Main chapel

A central skylight running the length of the spine of the chapel admits a diffused light down onto pews and the altar.

Decoration is kept to a minimum and windows at the sides of the chapel are unadorned. Wood is used generously on the interior and contributes to a natural and muted color palette.

The church remains largely as designed and continues to serve its congregation after fifty years.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

re:CONNECT Voting

The City of Vancouver's re:CONNECT competition to re-imagine the future of the viaducts is in the voting stage.

Among the many submissions: a NYC-Highline inspired transformation of the viaducts; reverting the False Creek flats back to marshland and the creation of new parkland; a false volcano that covers the stadiums and area.

Voting is open until November 25th. Winning entries will be announced on December 1, 2011.

Above, Submissions (from top) #56, #11, #113, #82

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Glass Towers Quandary

A sober report from a University of Toronto professor on the problems of Toronto's glass towers.

Ted Kesik, Professor of Building Science and author of the report, raises the issue of the expected lifetime performance of the glass (5-15 years, or 15-25 years more conservatively) and the costs of eventual replacement on a massive scale.

Kesik's report makes one thing clear: many sealed units fail. And with that failure, most of the R-value ceases to function. Factor in manufacturing, transporting, and installing replacements and the question of thermal resistance becomes one part of a complex assessment of costs and environmental considerations. In older buildings there are also aesthetic concerns with existing glass.

Kesik also talks about alternative methods of construction to glass walls such as punched windows and the use of materials like brick and masonry block.

It's difficult to say what conclusions can be drawn from the report for Vancouver, where the climate is milder but glass towers are plentiful.

On a related topic, ouno blog recently posted on the questionable viability of skyscrapers as a building typology.

Kesik ends his report with this:

"Today's glass condo towers are not as energy efficient and far less durable than their 1960's counterparts. Is there any industry where 50 years later, the products it produces cost more and perform worse than their predecessors?"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Vancouver Curio: Pacific Centre Promo

The cover for a promotional brochure for Pacific Centre in Vancouver.

At top is an illustration showing Cesar Pelli's faceless black TD tower, standing on the site of the second Hotel Vancouver. Eaton's edges into the foreground, with the Four Seasons Hotel and Marine Building receding in the background towards the harbour and north shore mountains.

The brochure features a layout of Pacific Centre with store listings set in what must be 5 point lower case type, rendering it virturally unreadable. It's undated but judging from the buildings, likely dates from 1975.

Pacific Centre was designed by Victor Gruen + Associates, with McCarter, Nairne + Partners (1975).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

John Fulker: Images of Architecture

John Fulker's career flourished alongside the Canadian architects whose work he captured: Barry Downs, Arthur Erickson and Clifford Wiens among others. In the process he created an invaluable visual record of architecture on the West Coast and beyond.

For the first time in thirty years his work will be exhibited at the West Vancouver Museum. Following the 2009 exhibition of Selwyn Pullan's work, "Images of Architecture" is another opportunity to reacquaint with a local legacy.

The exhibition opens on November 15th with a reception with the photographer and runs until January 14th, 2010. There is also a photographer's talk on December 3, 2011 at 1:30pm.

Photo: Graham Residence, John Fulker, 1967

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

1981: Thom + PNE

Check out this post from Retro Coast: a 1981 PNE brochure featuring a Prize Home designed by Ron Thom.

Compare Thom's design with more recent Prize Homes.

Curiously, the house is currently for sale, in somewhat altered form, in White Rock.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Staples Residence

Erickson Massey's 1967 Staples residence in West Vancouver is currently for sale.

It sits next door to the old Graham residence location on Cliff Cove and takes advantage of a breathtaking waterfront site that looks up Howe Sound. As with many houses from the era, the lot is now considered 'under-built'–in developer parlance–and there is concern that the house will come down.

However, unlike the Graham residence, which was badly renovated and allowed to deteriorate, the Staples residence has had no modification over the years and remains in beautiful and original condition.

It shares a common DNA with the Smith and Graham houses in its post and beam-based spatial explorations and a material palette of cedar, glass and bush-hammered concrete. All three houses showcased Erickson's renowned ability to design for difficult sites.

Soaring beams shoot past floor to ceiling glass into the surrounding foliage. The house achieves a quiet but powerful drama through clarity of design and an intimacy with the site. A Japanese influence is felt in the austerity of the composition and elements such as shoji screens, sand-float stucco and a koi pond.

Landscaping was designed by Don Vaughan and focused on native plantings and bonsai trees which still cling doggedly to the craggy slope.

The Staples worked closely with Erickson Massey and project architect Bruno Freschi to achieve a stunning design that happily accommodated a family of four for decades. The home now needs a new custodian to imbue it with the vitality and appreciation that has been its hallmark.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Western Living's Designers of the Year

Battersby Howat scooped Western Living's 2011 Designer and Interior Design awards and Omer Arbel won Industrial Designer.

See Western Living's website for the full list of winners.

Michael Harris also recently profiled Arbel's first residential commission in Vancouver Magazine.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Barry Downs' North Vancouver Civic Centre

Downs/Archambault's 1975 North Vancouver Civic Centre has been in transition for some time and the recent redesign by Mcfarlane Green Biggar is close to completion.

The original complex of City Hall and the library, designed by Barry Downs, was a remarkable if under-recognized work of West Coast Modernism that was diluted through incremental change and evolving civic priorities.

Downs conceived the Civic Centre as an unassuming, functional pair of buildings that inspired a more inclusive idea of politics and civic interaction.

Material choices spoke to this: raw cedar, concrete and an emphasis on landscaping of native plantings. Downs designed a pronounced planted berm and water feature that softened the connection between buildings and the urban surroundings.

It was a vision of politics that embraced integration and subtlety - hallmarks of Downs' work. The civic centre was so deeply connected to place, it felt as if it literally rose out of the fecund North Shore landscape.

Sadly this vision has largely been dismantled. The berm and water feature are long gone. The library building was demolished last year. Across the street is Diamond & Schmitt's new library – a sign of a changing urban mandate that is now transforming North Vancouver's Civic Centre and community buildings in general.

Meanwhile, Downs' lone remaining City Hall structure sits as a testament to the ingenuity, understatement and priorities of a different time and a master of the site.

B+W Photos: John Fulker