Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Architecture of Religion: St. David's United

A sort of companion building to Redeemer Lutheran Church, St. David's United in West Vancouver was completed a year earlier (in 1958) but anticipates the design of the later Massey Medal nominee.

St. David's is a larger, more refined building. However the general design program is the same and was to become fairly standard for churches in the city: an A-frame structure, supported by ascending glulam beams that buttress concrete base walls. The result is a vast, open area of worship.

A central skylight runs the length of the nave, admitting light that filters down the wood decking. Stained glass windows line the exterior walls. There is an absence of elaborate ornamentation that is consistent with other religious structures of the time and the modernist ethos. 

As with Redeemer, the chapel is offset by low-slung post and beam service areas that house offices, meeting rooms and administration. An interior garden area acts as a nice counterpoint to the shifting structure and spaces of an open stairwell. 

After 50-plus years, the landscaping is fully mature and the church is enveloped in a border of green that buffers it from the adjacent busy roads and highway.

St. David's was designed by G.W. Peck and Thompson, Berwick and Pratt.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander

Follow the link for a great profile on Cornelia Hahn Oberlander via CBC's Ideas.

Oberlander is also speaking at her own home with Barry Downs on Wednesday November 21st as part of the series celebrating Selwyn Pullan: Photographing Mid-Century Modernism.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Exploring Vancouver

Vancouver Heritage Foundation's final brown bag lunch happens this Wednesday November 21st. 

Harold Kalman will be speaking about his recent book Exploring Vancouver and the process of selecting buildings for inclusion. Robin Ward is the co-author.

Pictured above are the three previous editions of the book, published in 1974, 1978 and 1993 as well as the 2012 one. 

Though the 2012 edition is the most robust, each edition bears revisiting as they all have varied lists of building profiles, reflecting their respective eras.

After photographing the first two editions and skipping out on the third, John Roaf is back for the latest.

The talk happens at BCIT's Downtown Campus from 12 noon to 1:30pm. Register here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Safeway Comes Down

A few photos of one of Vancouver's rapidly disappearing group of glulam supermarket specials. This is the Safeway at Granville at 70th that was recently razed to make way for redevelopment.

The building was designed by Frank Roy in 1966 and featured a massive glulam structure, held up by metal columns, that was ideal for an open plan and broad supermarket isles. A curtain wall on the front brought ample light into the store. 

It was listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register with a Class A, Primary Significance designation and on Canada's Historic Places.

During the 1960's, Safeway designed a number of these signature stores, almost all of which are now gone (IGA on West Broadway) or altered beyond recognition (Safeway on West 4th Avenue). 

The redeveloped site is designed by Henriquez Partners Architects and will include two residential towers and a new Safeway store.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Vancouver Curio: Pratt by Archer

A recent find: a portrait of Ned Pratt by Vancouver photographer Tony Archer.

Judging by Pratt's clothes and age, it likely dates from the early-mid 1960's.

Tony Archer was a Vancouver photographer active from the late 1940's until the early 1970's. During that time he photographed many business and political leaders, as well as the city's architecture. As it turns out, he also photographed Barry Downs' parents CBK Van Norman-designed home.

Archer retired in 1972, sold the business to Stephen Miller and David Olds and donated his pre-1960 negatives to Archives Canada. His post-1960's negatives were later donated there as well.

This particular print measures roughly 12"x18" and has been unfortunately laminated. It is signed by Archer on the print and by Pratt on the matte. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Block 51 + UN Habitat Forum

A last minute heads up for two events tonight:

The second of two public consultations on the future of Block 51 - the site of the Vancouver Art Gallery - is taking place at the gallery. Discussions will centre around the significance of the North Plaza and the 800-block of Robson Street.

The plaza is slated for redevelopment and the city is considering closing down the block of Robson Street permanently to vehicle traffic, in response to the success of the Olympics and past closures like Pop Rocks and Picnurbia.

Also happening tonight: a talk by Vancouver writer Lindsay Brown on the city's 1976 UN Habitat Forum.

Brown is currently finishing up a book on the event and will explore some of that history, along with archival photos, at the Goldcorp Centre For the Arts.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Selwyn's Work

Mark your calendars for a night of celebration: the launch party for Selwyn Pullan: Photographing Mid-Century West Coast Modernism on October 9, 2012. 

Published by D+M and beautifully produced by the fine folks at the West Vancouver Museum + Archives, the book features texts by Barry Downs, Adele Weder and Kiriko Watanabe. 

It's the culmination of a great deal of work (and the previous exhibition) that gives one of our richest visual archives its due.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cheng Reshapes Pelli

Vancouver will have one of its most prominent, if almost universally loathed, buildings transformed. 

The Sears (Eaton's) building will be completely renovated by James Cheng over the next two years in preparation for Nordstrom's arrival. Walls of glass and four floors of office space will create a vastly different urban experience in the area.

Undoubtedly, Cesar Pelli's 1973 building is a product of a different time and one that completely turns its back on the street and contemporary urban planning. And yet... there is something in its obstinate presence that acts as a curious foil in a city filled with tower after tower of glass facades.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pratt + Berwick on Blenheim

A lovely early Ned Pratt original from 1940 that probably doesn't stand a chance.

It's right next door to a 1941 Bob Berwick that has seen some remodelling but still retains its form.

Two examples of the progressive residential work that Pratt and Berwick were designing shortly after joining Sharp + Thompson in 1937. In 1945 the firm name was changed to Sharp, Thompson, Berwick + Pratt to reflect their growing contributions. 

The two continued their exploration of architectural form, especially Pratt whose own 1951 post and beam home was strictly based on the 4x8 module and is one of the clearest West Coast interpretations of international modernism. 

That house was recently restored by Pratt's son Peter in what is a beautiful example of adaptation for the 21st century.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bing Thom on Vancouver

A recent article by Bing Thom and Michael Heeney on urban isolation and what can be done to minimize it.

It ties in with re-imagining our urban space and also with initiatives like Pop Rocks (above) and last summer's Picnurbia.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Party For Architects will reconvene on August 30th. Vancouver Special hosts and guest speaker is Ian Ross MacDonald of Bruce Carscadden Architect.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Philadelphia, Anyone?

Lou Kahn's work is pretty far from the West Coast, both figuratively and literally (except Salk), but the Fisher and Esherick residences are great examples of his few houses and both are for sale.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Boyd/McPhedran Update

Here's the link to Kerry McPhedran's comprehensive site on the Boyd/McPhedran house. Photos are from Architecture Wanted.

Above and below, photos by John Bland of the living room (looking toward the kitchen showing original open shelving and pass through) and exterior.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Thom's Boyd/McPhedran


Add one more to the list of Ron Thom-designed houses currently for sale: the Boyd/McPhedran house in West Vancouver has just been listed 

It's an earlier design (from 1954) that shows his evolving approach and increasing mastery of the rocky terrain of the North Shore: hipped roof, deep overhangs, limited palette of natural materials and integration to site. 

It was originally built for art school friends of Thom who only lived there for a short time. The house has been sensitively maintained and expanded over the years and retains a graceful sense of proportion and scale.

See Kerry McPhedran's Western Living article that explores Thom's Vancouver work and her relationship with the house.

It's a notable piece in Thom's oeuvre, mostly for it's muted architectural beauty but also because of its influence: it had a profound impression on a young Paul Merrick as well as the numerous clients Thom showed the house to as an example of his work.

It joins the Forrest (for sale, again), the Work/Baker and the Norman houses on the market– a group that spans not only the geography of Vancouver but also Thom's architectural output in the city.