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

Sunday, October 9, 2011