Sunday, July 3, 2011

Carmichael Residence



Ron Thom's 1957 Carmichael residence is on the market.

This is one of Thom's Wright-inspired hexagonal houses and shares a common language with the nearby Southworth and Case residences. Taken together, they show Thom's development beyond his earlier rectilinear designs.

Interior view showing brick, wood and sand-float stucco.

The material palette of concrete brick, natural wood and sand-float stucco coalesce into a series of intimately connected spaces with an embracing scale. A broad hipped roof, clerestory windows and extensive butt-joint glass add a richness to the design and draw the exterior landscaping inward.

At just 1150 sq. ft. the house is small, even by 1957 standards, but it emphasizes quality of living space rather than size, in stark contrast to current trends.

Plan from 1950's Canadian Architect article showing hexagonal grid system.

Section from 1950's Canadian Architect article.

The Carmichael residence has a trail of recognition including the Massey Medals for Architecture in 1961. It was one of two Thom-designed homes featured in the Architecture and Sculpture in Canada exhibition at the Canadian Government Pavillion during Expo 67 and is also listed in West Vancouver's Survey of Significant Architecture 1945-1975.

Carmichael Residence as shown in the 1961 Massey Medals catalogue.

In close to original condition with Thom-designed furnishings still intact, the house needs work but is listed as "mainly lot value" which is a travesty considering it's an exemplary West Coast style building by one of Canada's greatest architects.

But with a lot size of 88'x150' the business case for tearing it down and increasing the FSR through rebuilding is compelling.

However that doesn't take into account its less tangible qualities: thoughtful design, an essential connection to nature and the not inconsiderable belief in the ability of architecture to enrich the quality of life.

There is always hope of a middle ground: a sensitive restoration with an addition or a secondary building on the lot that allows the preservation of this remarkable little house.

Color photos: John Bland Canadian Architecture Archive at McGill University.
B+W photo: Selwyn Pullan

3 comments:

in dream city said...

excellent post!

CM McLellan said...

Thanks!

Cameron said...

If I had deep pockets, I'd buy up all his houses when they come onto the market. They may be small, but they are jewels.