West Vancouver is one of Canada’s wealthiest postal codes. It’s also a treasure trove of midcentury modernism that’s under threat due to rising real estate prices and the municipality’s relatively large lot sizes. And it's home to one of the hardest working – if relatively under-funded – design and architecture museums in the nation.
Located in a tiny building near the city hall, The West Vancouver Museum squeezes lots of aesthetic content into its small square footage, with exhibitions that celebrate the best of West Coast design. Its annual fund raiser – the West Coast Modern Home Tour – offers a carefully curated peek into the fate of modernist classics as well as contemporary interpretations of work by the likes of Fred Hollingsworth, Arthur Erickson and other architects who first made their mark with midcentury residences.
This year’s 11th annual tour of six homes did not disappoint, with noted West Coast modern architect Barry Downs on hand for tours and anecdotes, at a Ron Thom house he designed the garden and entranceway for.
The 1958 diamond grid shaped Dawson/Purdie residence, updated by more contemporary renovations, still exudes Thom’s particular Frank Lloyd Wright inspired take on the West Coast, with extensive glazing that opens up to surrounding fir trees and a hearth built from nearby river stones.
Also on the tour was Downs’ 1966 Smith/Dick residence, heralded by tall firs at its entrance and folded into a rocky site overlooking mountain vistas, that still retains its unique light-filled treehouse feel. The owners – who have carefully renovated the kitchen and bathroom, and subdued the original 'wild' garden plantings – have recently sold the house to a young family.
Happily, this was the original intent of the architect – to create an ideal home for children to grow up in – but one that has been thwarted by high real estate prices in an area that was much more affordable 40 years ago.