Monday, December 29, 2014

Downs Named to Order of Canada

Barry Downs, perhaps the quintessential West Coast architect, has been named to the Order of Canada

It's a fitting and well-deserved distinction for an architect whose work over six decades embodies the Governor General's criteria of outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation.

Congratulations, Barry!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Odlum Residence

The Odlum residence was designed by RJ Thom in 1963 while at Thompson, Berwick + Pratt, replacing an earlier TB+P residence from 1954 that was destroyed by fire.

It sits on a large property on a main road in West Vancouver - a site which was recently sold and is slated for imminent demolition, to be replaced by a Senior Living Residence.

The house is listed as a Secondary Building in the West Vancouver Survey of Significant Architecture and possesses many features typical of Thom's other residential work.

The design is clear and unfussy but is now hampered by neglect and aesthetic choices (eg.exterior paint) that distract from the overall design. Nonetheless, the house still embodies the ethos of the era through modest, human scale, deference to the site and the importance of natural light.

The roof forms in the carport dominate the entrance area and echo the sweeping intersecting planar shapes of the grander Forrest Residence. It's a theme that runs throughout the house: wall planes project past usual corner points into the landscape, creating a dynamic structure and intimate garden corners.

Currently, the property is overgrown and in the process of reverting back to its natural state; a state that will soon be razed and completely transformed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lost in 2014

This past year saw the passing of important West Coast architects Catherine Chard Wisnicki (above) and Vladimir Plavsic.

Wisnicki was a pioneering Modernist designer who had a hand in many important early Vancouver buildings, including the Saba, Brooks and Nemetz residences. She worked as a Senior Designer at Sharp, Thompson Berwick + Pratt, starting in 1946 alongside Ned Pratt and also formed a partnership with John Porter. 

Wisnicki was the second female member of the AIBC and later taught at UBC before retiring in 1986.

Vladimir Plavsic was born in Belgrade, but defected after World War II, finding his way to Canada and the architecture school at the University of Toronto. 

Eventually ending up on the West Coast, Plavsic designed many buildings in the city, including the superb Medical Dental Centre, which has aged well. See ouno's post on the building here.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

White Show Closing Weekend

This weekend is the last chance to take in the Dan White exhibition at the Museum of Vancouver. 

The engaging show closes Sunday March 23rd after a solid run exploring the Vancouver architect's low-key but prolific career.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Architecture of Religion: Chapel at Redroofs

The Church of His Presence is a tiny chapel near Sechelt commissioned by sea-going Missionary Canon Alan Greene. It was designed by Ron Thom in 1961 with Dick Mann while both were at Thompson Berwick and Pratt.

Still in use by a few old-timers, the chapel is perched on a rock bluff that looks out onto Welcome Pass. Greene built it as a memorial to his wife and the scattered congregation he ministered over many years by ship up and down the Sunshine Coast as part of the Columbia Coast Mission.

The simple A-frame structure is flooded with light from the largely glass enclosed end walls and a central skylight. The original solid wood doors (second photo) were replaced with plate glass ones as further funds became available to Greene after construction. Side windows at floor level provide sheltered views of ground cover from the pews, peeking out from underneath a flared roof edge. 

A relatively spacious deck leads to the front entrance and also serves as a gathering area during warmer months. 

The chapel was built by local tradespeople, with many of the materials acquired by donation. Greene himself donated the land. After construction, it was discovered that the chapel broached the neighbouring property slightly. As a suitable agreement could not be reached, it was moved so as to sit wholly on Greene's lot.

It remains a classic West Coast structure and a graceful if rough-hewn reminder of B.C.'s architectural and maritime history.

Historical Images: Anglican Archives of the Diocese of New Westminster

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hahn Oberlander Book

Cornelia Hahn Oberlander's work is integral to the fabric of Vancouver and forms the living heart of the Robson Square Law Courts and the Museum of Anthropology.

A new book–Cornelia Hahn Oberlander: Making the Modern Landscape–celebrates her designs and will have its launch at Inform Interiors on February 6 from 5:30-7:00pm.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bank of Canada Atrium Threatened

Arthur Erickson's 1979 Bank of Canada building is being threatened by an upcoming renovation. 

The Bank of Canada is demolishing the current atrium in an effort to better use it as an informal space for bank employees. It will be replaced by a greatly reduced version, lacking a water feature, original plantings and undoubtedly Erickson's sensitivity. 

In a reversal of the spirit of the garden, it is also being closed to the public. 

Given the integral relationship between Erickson's buildings and the landscape it is a devastating move.

For more information see The Cultural Landscape Foundation's page.

Binning Sale Blocked

The potential sale of the Binning house has been blocked, in a ruling from the B.C. Supreme Court.

Among other reasons, Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick ruled that TLC must demonstrate efforts to find a suitable trustee for the house before any possible sale could be considered. 

It's a (temporary) win for the preservation community and a chance to find a suitable long term solution for one of the most important modernist houses in the country.