Platinum for Dockside

Congratulations to Windmill West, Vancity, and architects Busby Perkins Will and many others as Victoria's Dockside Green's first phase achieved LEED Platinum certification! It scored the highest ever for new construction, 63 out of 70.

Read more about it here.


Picture Post - VCCEP update

Above is the image I like quite a bit - it reminds me of the pyramids of Teotihuacan.

and a tiny sliver of the green roof (if anyone in Shaw Tower has better pictures I would love to put them up!). Vancouver Province even had an article about the roof about a week ago or so.

And this is what it might look like when it is finished:
Architects: Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership; Downs/Archambault & Partners; LMN Architects

Robson Square Renewal - Ice Rink

A public consultation about the ice rink extension was held on Wednesday - here are some images from it and from the project's website.

Seems like a pretty benign - too much so? - intervention , especially considering the original scheme - now the rink will be extended, domes replaced and couple of stairs added. Here are earlier drawings for comparison:
Throughout the architect here is Clive Grout.

Other parts of this project include a retrofit of the complex (mainly to combat unstoppable leaks), redesign(?) of the Georgia Plaza, and a new Asia Pacific Pavilion - details on these will come later this year.

More information on Robson Square Renewal project can be found here.


Where did you go, DOCOMOMOBC?

A reader, Jennifer commented on lack of a resource for fans of local mid-century modern architecture in Vancouver - you can read the original comment here. Prompted by her comment, I scooted over to DocomomoBC, and, as if by design, poof! - it was already gone.

It was up just a week or so beforehand. Whatever happened?

In particular ( to Jennifer's comment) some places/resources to check out for mid-century modern architecture are AIBC, Vancouver Heritage, and, if it comes back up, DocomomoBC.

Two semi-formed general thoughts come to mind:

To begin with, I would go further - is there any one comprehensive resource for fans of architecture (in general not-at-all-specific sense) in Vancouver? There are bits and pieces scattered, but no one website to come home to. Another aspect to starting ArchitectureWanted was to document my findings in seeking out architecture in Vancouver upon my recent move here. Here in Vancouver is a wealth of modern and contemporary architecture - as much as in Toronto, and, at times, it seems even greater than in that esteemed city. But the enthusiasm is only so-so compared to that of Toronto's denizens - look they have Doors Open, Architecture Days, etc.

Secondly, preservation - that is a big one! The need to preserve iconic structures does exist, sorely so. Perhaps, it would be a little too much to extend protection to most modern homes around here. But it is disappointing to be losing not only homes by Lewis Construction and Lader Bros, but those by the likes of Duncan McNab and Arthur Erickson. Nothing is sadder than to arrive on site, full of anticipation, to see these works of architecture and to see that they have been replaced with a hole, or, better yet, a McMansion (on my map- to the right, in the sidebar - I mark these sad trips with a red pin). Although we can not preserve everything, we must at least put up a fight for some of the more crucial of our cultural artifacts.

One way to to preempt the destruction is by spreading the knowledge and appreciation for these - to actively assert architecture's place in our culture. And perhaps, others one day will see Lewis homes for what they are - simple, elegant, ever so appropriate, and, without question, valuable. I would rather see sensitive renovations and additions than demolitions. I hope that ArchitectureWanted can in some capacity also answer the call to bring attention to both architecture of Vancouver and to preservation of our architectural achievements. Perhaps, we can all do what we can to stay informed and to inform other.

Here is a topical article on preserving our built heritage in today's Globe and Mail. Definitely worth reading.

UPDATE: Docomomo BC is back up!

Arthur Erickson, Internationally Celebrated Designer

This again; from Saturday's Globe and Mail. The comments section as usual provides a healthy and fairly well-rounded- and at times snarky - discussion.

Above is Erickson's late Graham House...


Townhouses unwanted: Shaughnessy Heights

(original image by eboy)

The privilege of low-density and "everyone's got a view" (confused? read Martha Sturdy's assessment of Vancouver's architecture here) is difficult to surrender even if it means going to B.C. Supreme Court.

Globe and Mail report.

This is a second attack on townhouse typology (again - Martha Sturdy!).

Is it really that wrong to want to build houses that share walls? For those who argue that this development will destroy the character - note that there were twenty development options. Is the fight to preserve the neighbourhood's character or to preserve its property values? As though anyone but other millionaires will buy into these.

Maybe higher density is only for the proles...


How many differences can YOU find?

Maybe many, maybe few - depends on how you feel about this project:

the front of the soon-to-be-finished North Vancouver Library Civic Centre by Diamond and Schmitt Architecture of Toronto(!), pending LEED Silver certification.

the backside of recently finished Cambridge City Hall, Cambridge, Ontario by Diamond and Schmitt Architects of Toronto(!), just certified as LEED Gold on August 5.

North Vancouver Library Civic Centre's grand opening celebration is on Sept 20, 11-3. See you there!


D'Arcy Jones & lightness

Island House on Vancouver Island

D'Arcy Jones is someone who I have been watching from afar for a few years and now that I am in Vancouver and have started this blog thingie, I have been just itching to write about his work. But as Adele Weder points in last April's Canadian Architect article he is:
just beginning to gain renown in British Columbia for a series of graceful, well-proportioned and emphatically Modernist residences. Because most of his projects have been outside of Vancouver, they have received less critical and media attention--less "buzz"--than merited.
Well, now his website has quite a little media collection going and he was one of Vancouver Museums "Movers and Shapers" this year. Perhaps what I like that most though is that his work speaks more loudly to me than press; the hype does not outstrip the architecture.

It is with light touch and palpable respect and care that he renovated this Vancouver residence built originally by Thompson Berwick Pratt's team comprised of Ron Thom, Dick Mann, and Bob Burniston in 1958.

Images by Robert Lemermeyer

Having seen Jones on the very same West Coast Modern tour photographing the houses and just really observing them, I can surmise that the lightness of this touch and grace (too much?) comes from understanding.

Anyway, very cool. His website is a must for many more (alas, most are outside of Vancouver):

Words fail

When yesterday one of my international RSS newsfeeds delivered to me this National post article entitled "Design Exchange: Rethinking the Architecture of Canadian Cities", I got rather excited - ooh, Canadian architecture is making waves in a global pond! The premise is that "nine prominent Canadians critique the architecture of the cities they live in". And the very first one is Vancouver (not to get too excited - the article simply moves from west to east geographically) critiqued by Martha Sturdy to Sarah Bancroft.

Sturdy, of course, is a "leading designer of furniture, accessories, wall art and sculptures [...] known for her distinctive artwork that is sophisticated, minimal, and bold" and her "name is found among the design elite and her creations are shown alongside some of the world's most exclusive brands" (both quotes are www.marthasturdy.com). One of her most recent contributions to Vancouver's urban space is a sculpture in front of Vancouver General Hospital, created and donated by her in 2007 (Here's the press release).

I read it as soon as I had a chance.



But here are some excerpts ( Again, here is the link if you would like to have a bit more context for these if necessary):

Q(Bancroft) When a visitor comes to Vancouver, what's the first building you want to show them and why?

A(Sturdy) What I do is this: I pick them up at the airport and go through UBC so the first view of the city is from Spanish Banks. The city as a setting is so amazing from that angle. Then it looks more on an international level. People say to me "Where are you from?" and I say "Vancouver." Then they say, "No, where are you really from?" "Vancouver!" Because we don't think we're good enough.


Q And the last structure, i.e., what are you least proud of?

A One of the problems is that we are insecure and we always think we can copy from somewhere else and then it's good enough. My idea is you never copy. So things like Science World - it's been done and done and done. Get over it. Everybody's got that. Unless it's your idea, you don't know how to make it work. It's just like my furniture. I don't copy others. I make it myself from scratch so therefore it is what I really am.


Q What's the most important new building or urban development in the city?

A I can't even really tell you because I don't really like any of them.

Q What is the most important old building?

A The Marine Building because of its location on the axis of Hastings Street. And the design. It's the old centre of town. You can go in every direction.


Q What is the worst architectural/urban design trend to appear recently?

A These high-rise towers with what appear to be townhouses at the base. It looks like you can walk right in.

Q What's the most significant new approach to the "built environment?"

A I have been asked to submit some ideas for the old salt sheds on the waterfront that are being redeveloped - it would be white resin cubes for sitting on, which would be like salt. Resin is so great because if they scratch, you can sand it off.


Q Looking to the future, what new buildings or developments do you predict for the city?

A In South Main Street, there's a lot of artists, model making and graphic designers. It's a great area. It's low-rise, so everyone's got a view.


Q Rate the excellence of Vancouver's design and/or architecture on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being superb.

A Five. We're nowhere. It's just about having the confidence to be.

For comparison, try reading through Charlie Pachter's critique of Toronto or those of any of the other seven "prominent Canadians". The interview questions are not all that great, but reading the responses should put Sturdy's answers in a certain perspective if any such was lacking.


Binning house

After unsuccessfully trying to peek over the hedges around this landmark building to catch even a tiny glimpse of it, I was ever so pleased when I found out that it was part of the West Coast Modern Homes and Gardens tour and got to go inside and see it in all its glory! And now, a month later I have finally pulled together a post about it.

The house's owner and creator is B.C.Binning, Alberta-born but a life-long Vancouver resident. He is one of the most important of modern Canadian artists whose influence easily extended into architecture, both as a designer and as a mentor to many others including Ron Thom, .... Binning designed his own house - located at 2968 Mathers Crescent, West Vancouver - and built it in 1941, one of the earliest modern houses and one of the most important to emergence of West Coast Modernism.

Adele Weder - who wrote her graduate thesis on this building - wrote an article on Binning House for Canadian Architect in August of 2006. She also collaborated on a book about B.C. Binning. In it, Weder offers that although Binning house is considered a major modernist milestone for Vancouver, it possesses a "subtle defiance of Modernist dogma".

The house is small by contemporary standards and seemingly very simple. Yet it boasts angles, slants, curves, lovely millwork, colours, clerestories and all the while has a wonderful spatial composition. The house consists of an entry hallway, kitchen, living room, bathroom, two bedrooms, and a studio. These are strung in a linear sequence that folds once upon itself in such a way that entry and the studio share a wall but they are the furthest from each other when walking from one to the other. The whole building is very rich and feels nothing like a pre-conception of modern house - a Domino house of sorts.

It has been a year that Binning's widow, Jessie has passed away and now the house, National Historic Site, is in the hands of Land Conservancy of British Columbia(who are also stewards for Erickson's Baldwin House in Burnaby) and they plan to eventually open it public. Until then, here are some point-and-shoot photos I took during my visit:

entry hallway

hallway mural

living room

living room


Binning's studio

back facade

and, of course, the view!


Vancouver Modern Tours

Gardner Residence, Kenneth Gardner, 1958
photo by Selwyn Pullan

I just figured out that Vancouver Heritage Foundation also runs other architectural tours besides the heritage homes tour.

There are two tours in particular that seem very interesting , and one of them - pricey!

The first is a walking tour of downtown Vancouver on Saturday, September 27 at 10am. This includes a guided tour and a map - all for $14. By the way, this tour is eligible for 2.5 core learning units from AIBC continuing education.

The other tour is a bit more posh and is similar to the recent West Vancouver Homes and Gardens Tour. At a price of $100 and 4 core learning units, Open Vancouver Mid-Century Modern Residential Bus Tour is on Saturday, October 4 from 1-6pm with a wine reception at the ultimate house stop (there are five buildings in total on the tour).

On earlier tours the stops included :
  • Barber Residence (Ross Lort)
  • Copp Residence (Ron Thom)
  • Downs Residence (Barry Downs)
  • Stager Residence (Barry Downs)
  • Danto Residence (Arthur Erickson)
  • Saba Residence (Ned Pratt)
  • Simpson Residence (TBP)
  • Gardner Residence (Kenneth Gardner)
  • Zack Residence (Fred Dalla-Lana)
  • Smith Residence (Allen C. Smith)
Both tours seem pretty cool. And, of course, AIBC offers multiple tours almost everyday at budget price of $5 around Vancouver's downtown. Happy touring!