Friday, November 22, 2013

CoMo Screening

The Museum of Vancouver is screening Coast Modern this Sunday, November 24th at 2pm. 

Directors Gavin Froome and Michael Bernard will be in attendance for a post-screening Q+A and discussion.

The film is being shown as part of the Design Sundays at MOV, in conjunction with the Dan White exhibit, Play House: The Architecture of Daniel Evan White

It's a great opportunity to take in two essential West Coast documents.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Shaping Cities

Old mobility vs. new mobility via Charles Montgomery in The Guardian.

Binning House News

As The Land Conservancy is now under creditor protection, it is divesting itself of some properties, including the 1941 Binning residence. 

A $1.6 million offer has been received and will be reviewed by a court-appointed monitor on November 18. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hemingway Residence

Brian Hemingway's own 1977 residence is on the market. 

Located on a steep hillside in West Vancouver, the house is a virtual treehouse and shares many qualities with the contemporaneous and nearby Merrick house.

Copious use of timbers and glass, an intimate relationship to a precipitous site and and the tangible influence of Ron Thom are all part of this wonderful late-modern West Coast work.

Photos: Pixilink

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Don Vaughan Profile

Via Price Tags - a great profile on landscape architect Don Vaughan and three significant projects he designed in Metro Vancouver.

It's the first of a four part series of short films on Vancouver landscape architects from film-makers Saba Farmand and Paul Albi.

Image: Don Vaughan at High Tide Pavilion/Low Tide Sculpture at David Lam Park

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

City Hall Buildings

Changes are coming to Vancouver's city hall buildings due to identified earthquake risks. The east wing has been marked for eventual demolition and the west annex will require significant seismic upgrades.

A report by Glotman-Simpson notes that it would take about $4 million to upgrade the east wing to the highest seismic standards, a sum that has apparently been deemed excessive. Interestingly, the report also states that both buildings "are of a quality and finish that is suitable for retrofit."

The east wing was designed in 1968 by Townley, Matheson and Partners who were also the architects of the original, heritage-designated city hall building on the West 12th Avenue site. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


The next instalment of Party For Architects is slated for September 26th. Vancouver Special is hosting and Campos Leckie Studio will be in attendance as special guests.

See Trevor Boddy's insightful article for a primer on Campos Leckie's residential work in Mexico.

Ron Thom Exhibit

This is the final week to view the West Vancouver Museum's excellent Ron Thom exhibit, guest curated by Adele Weder. 

It comes down after September 21 and will then travel East to Toronto and Peterborough in the coming year.

See also the exhibition-related website that explores Thom's work.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

West Coast Modern Home Tour

There are still a few tickets left for the self-drive option on the West Vancouver Museum's West Coast Modern Home Tour.

It's a strong group, including Ron Thom's Carmichael (shown above) and Grinnell houses, Barry Downs' own stunning 1979 residence, a recently renovated Bob Lewis design and a contemporary residence by Greg Dowling of DGBK.

The tour takes place on Saturday July 13th.

Photo: Kenneth James Dyck,, 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

Downs + Pullan Interview

A recent North Shore Outlook article on Barry Downs and Selwyn Pullan features the two reminiscing and discussing their respective professions. A photo of them outside Pullan's studio is a nice touch.

Kim Smith and Bo Helliwell, featured as well, talk about their renovation and sympathetic addition to Downs' 1963 Rayer residence.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thom's Sauder Display House

On the market for the first time in nearly 45 years, Ron Thom's Sauder Display house was designed at the height of West Coast Modernism for the Sauder Lumber company to showcase its extensive line of plywood.

But that commercial origin belies a design that has generously accommodated family life over the years and continues to resonate with grace and beauty.

Many of the qualities found in Thom's best work are here. Sensitive siting, material integrity and human scale are brought together with features like butt-joint glass, impeccable finishing and spaced beams that draw the eye out as they pass through the building envelope and into the landscape. 

A Japanese influence shows in decorative roof crests, a koi pond at the entry path and a spareness and purposefulness of attributes like gutters held back to reveal a thin, delicate roof edge. Inside, on what would ordinarily be a ninety degree turn, one wall plane extends outward, meeting the other through a recessed section as edges pull back to underscore the transition. 

Though the approach varies from the freeform spatial inventiveness of something like the Case Residence, the connection between structure and site remains elemental and the house is grounded in a calm confidence. As the split-level plan pivots, views double back through layers of glazing, framed by structure and landscaping. 

The result is a sort of architectural fugue that cascades from one room to the next, culminating in the living room amongst unexpected turns and quiet corners. Open framing acts like tensioned webbing to define the space and provide unexpected depth and height.

Thom's colleague Dick Mann worked closely with him on the house, at a time when Thom was immersed in the construction of Massey College in Toronto; many of the details are the result of Mann's careful eye.

Mid-century houses are an endangered species in Vancouver. The Sauder Display house particularly so, given its location on a major urban artery. In a city like Los Angeles there is an understanding that houses by Schindler, Neutra and Wright are civic, even national, treasures. Not so in Vancouver where we tend to bulldoze our heritage before it gets too old.

Not every building or house should be saved, of course. But the city can only benefit from the best exemplars of their place and time being protected for the record, even as we move forward. 

The house has a history of public viewings, beginning in 1962 when Vancouverites toured it throughout the summer. It was profiled in the August 1962 issue of Western Homes + Living and more recently featured on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation's house tour–the first modernist property to be included. 

As the Sauder Display house transitions again, here's hoping it will find a new custodian to carry it through the next mid-century as a reminder of a particularly fertile moment in the city's history.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Daniel Evan White

Dan White is the subject of an upcoming exhibition this fall at the Museum of Vancouver. 

The show runs from October 2013-March 2014 and is guest curated by Greg Johnson and Martin Lewis with Viviane Gosselin of the Museum of Vancouver.

In the meantime, check out the tumblr site dedicated to White's architecture - primarily late modern residential with a strong linear quality and close connection to site.

White's is a unique body of work that hasn't received its due, perhaps because his career blossomed in the shadow of the initial wave of West Coast Modern architects or perhaps because of his focus on the residential sphere. 

Whatever the reason, the exhibition looks to reassess a quiet but important West Coast legacy.

Image: Lunn Residence, 1987

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Heritage Vancouver's Top Ten

Heritage Vancouver has released its annual Top Ten Endangered list. 

At the top is Paul Merrick's wonderful Forest Education Centre (pictured above) at VanDusen Botanical Garden. Other endangered buildings include the Vancouver Post Office and the Waldorf Hotel.

If you feel strongly about the preservation of these sites, let the City of Vancouver know.

Image: Heritage Vancouver Society

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Melding Architecture with Landscape

Barry Downs' exhibition runs at the West Vancouver Museum from May 8-June 15th, 2013. The opening reception happens on May 14th.

It's part of a strong West Coast Modern line-up the museum is mounting through the summer and into the fall, including West Coast Points East: Ron Thom and the Allied Arts, guest curated by Adele Weder.

Both will be essential viewing for anyone interested in a deeper understanding of two of Vancouver's finest practitioners.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Art Gallery Decision

The City of Vancouver has recommended the Larwill Park site for the Vancouver Art Gallery. 

The gallery will have until April 2015 to raise 75% of the estimated $300 million capital costs.

See Mayor Gregor Robertson's website for details. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Barry Downs: Architecture and Landscape

This summer the West Vancouver Museum is mounting an exhibition of Barry Downs' work. The title of the show, Melding Architecture with Landscape: A Collaboration in Design speaks to Downs' intimate connection to the West Coast landscape as well as his proclivity for inspired collaboration.

In the meantime, the museum has organized an evening in support of the publication of an exhibition catalogue. Held at the home studio of Blue Sky Architecture – housed in Downs' Rayer residence pictured above – the evening features Leslie Van Duzer, Director of SALA at UBC, in addition to Downs in attendance.

It's an opportunity to support an essential West Coast architectural record.

The event takes place on Thursday April 11, from 6-9pm. More information can be obtained through Kiriko Watanabe at the West Vancouver Museum.

Image: Rayer Residence, Barry Downs c. 1964

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beach + Howe

A public open house is happening Thursday evening for Beach + Howe, the proposed Bjarke Ingels design. Ingels will be in attendance. 

It takes place in the lobby of Robson Square from 4-7pm. Check here for details.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Boyd/McPhedran Relist

Ron Thom's Boyd/McPhedran house has been relisted in West Vancouver, well below its assessed value.

See the website for photos and information on this little gem of a house with a notable history. 

It's an opportunity to pick up a significant piece of West Coast modernism and carry on its tradition as a writer's hideaway, or artist's studio, or salon and gathering spot or...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Post Office Sold

News this week on a few fronts. The Vancouver Post Office has been sold and faces a future of 'mixed-use development'. Which hopefully means the building will be retained in some significant form.

It has also been announced that Patkau Architects have been chosen to design the new Presentation House Gallery in North Vancouver. This comes hot on the heels of the announcement that Patkau will design the Audain Gallery in Whistler.