Baker / Forrest House by Ron Thom and Dick Mann

This 1962 Ron Thom house was the final and the longest stop on the West Coast Modern Homes tour this past Saturday. Its owners have spent a lot of effort to renovate it and also graciously lent it for a reception held by the museum. In a time when many West Vancouver modern treasures have been replaced by McMansions or giant gaping holes awaiting McMansions, it is fantastic that its latest owners chose to preserve it and to share this cultural artifact with others.

As they are still renovating it, some of the characteristic elements are not yet in place. Again the pictures are not great, but my visit was!

the entry

glazed entry corner

elevation that faces the view-click on image to enlarge.

the view - definitely worth enlarging - it is truly incredible!

view from the living room.

roof planes colliding in the living room.

another view of the south elevation.

living room.

fireplace corner in the living room.

fireplace nook.

Detail of partitions meeting the ceiling and of hallway light fixtures.

The site determines much about this house - its massing and even the angles of the house's roof planes (same angle as the site's slope). The roofs appear to hover above the landscape as the vertical elements that support them recede visually, as large steel beams cantilever the roofs out. This is furthered by contrasting the lightness of the glazing frames with the heavy concrete base. The drama of the scheme is in the roofs and was economical to achieve by simplifying the rest - the layout, the finishes, etc.

Inside the designers overlap spaces, creating complex spatial composition and sequencing that Thom was always spectacular with. The fireplace, too, manifests prominently - Thom, like Wright, always seems to have placed a great importance on the hearth. Here it is more streamlined than such others of his that I have seen, and more moving for it.

The house got a Massey Medal (a GG of earlier years) in 1964. To see the house as it was then, photographed by Selwyn Pullan, click here.

I will try to post more pictures from the tour and from my other recent walkabouts soon.

Also - keep checking the map to the right, not only does it include this post's subject, but I am constantly updating it!

1 comment:

Jennifer said...


Great blog and photos, I just came across it in an internet search. Thank you for creating it.

I also went on the West Van tour, having only found out about it recently, and it was very enjoyable. I also went on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s house tour last year for the first time.

I have been asking around regarding whether a resource exists for fans of local midcentury modern architecture, geared to both interested non-specialists as well as the typical aficionados or experts like architects, designers, heritage buffs, etc. An information portal could be used to share ideas, experiences and information resources around midcentury design, decor and home improvement/renovations. It would be particularly valuable for those fortunate enough to live in such a house, be it a ”pedigreed” structure or a more modest builder interpretation of the west coast modern style.

It seems like along with increased awareness of the need to preserve the iconic structures, there also needs to be a broader awareness of, and appreciation for, the simpler and more affordable adaptations of the west coast modern style that were targeted towards the average homeowner.

Lewis Construction, for example, designed and built hundreds of post and beam homes on the North Shore in the 1950s. I wonder how many current owners or future buyers of this style of home, both on the North Shore and elsewhere in the Lower Mainland, appreciate their unique qualities? It sounds like these homes are definitely at risk, but we probably don't have the quantity of housing stock needed to spark the kind of "retro renaissance" that has exploded in California, particularly around the large tracts of Eichlers, Alexanders, etc built for the middle classes in the 50s and 60s (see Atomic Ranch magazine).

It would be wonderful to see a Vancouver-specific information resource modeled along the lines of California-based sites like Lotta Living and the Eichler Network … it would also be a great way to pay tribute to those few modernist pioneers who are still with us.

(BTW who are you, Mr./Ms. Architecture Wanted??)