Vancouver’s modernist house tour takes us inside the great outdoors

Vancouver’s modernist house tour takes us inside the great outdoors

Bucolic West Vancouver, Canada’s wealthiest postal code, epitomises the West Coast lifestyle, with its gorgeous cliff faces and oceanfront views. But the Canadian Monterey is also home to a wealth of mid-century modernism – much of it unprotected and at risk.

The small but determined West Vancouver Museum is at the forefront of the city’s modernist heritage conservation, and their annual homes tour always provides a unique, era-bridging architectural anthropology.

This year’s 12th annual West Coast Modern Home tour featured the 1939 Thornton Residence, located in Caulfeild Cove and contemporised with a new kitchen in 2014. Named for the gentleman-of-leisure who acquired the land in 1898, it exhibits his original vision to recreate the area in the image of an English seaside village.

It was followed by the Neoteric Residence, a 1950 Fred Hollingsworth original on a sprawling, landscaped lot in an area known as the British Properties. Its classic open-plan post and beam layout, under a flat roof with wide eaves, hides a closed-in studio and updated kitchen. In microloft-plagued Vancouver, Neoteric represents a genteel fantasy of natural light and open space among romantic, evergreen gardens.

The 1964 Madrona residence, renovated into a sleek 2011 ode to mid-century chic, maintains the modernist bones of its origins. And the intriguing, angled Urban Farm by Robert and Cedric Burgers marries an industrial-inspired exterior and streamlined interior with a substantial orchard.

But the pièce de la résistance of the tour was the stunning 1965 Beaton Residence, perched on an acre of Cliffside beachfront in an area called Whytecliff, where killer whales swim alongside residents in the Pacific. The Arthur Müdry-designed home reads like a seaside Wright, seamlessly fusing indoor and outdoor with expansive views of towering firs and water. The living room, framed by hyperbolic paraboloids and floor-to-ceiling windows on both sides, is a cathedral to West Coast modernism.

It’s also the tour’s most poignant offering. Listed at CAN$10.5 million (‘lot value’, deadpanned a local developer) it’s not protected by any heritage laws and seems to cry out for a Docomomo crusade to save it from monster-home fate. One hopes it will survive at the very least until next year’s museum tour.

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