Have you ever seen pictures of amazing modern architecture in the rainforested mountains of the Pacific Northwest and wondered what is inside—even if you’ve never made it to British Columbia?
Well, now you can scratch that itch.
The West Vancouver Art Museum has been running a tour highlighting iconic West Coast Modern designs—from mid-century to today—since 2006. This year, with restrictions still in place, the museum has shifted its approach, offering a film instead of an in-person tour. The benefit? People all over Canada will be able to tune in.
“We saw this as an excellent opportunity to feature homes that we can’t typically feature on our in-person tours for logistical reasons,” says curator Hilary Letwin. “The challenge was distilling the experience of our in-person tour into a film. How do we capture that anticipation as you walk up to a house? On the in-person tour, one of the best parts is interacting with the home-owners, so we sought to feature the home-owners prominently.”
Though the homes occupy niches in a wide variety of sensibilities, they are united by innovation and the gently provocative modernism that has coursed through British Columbia like the province’s many rivers for nearly a century. Variously renovated and original, the six homes all express a sensitivity to the land. The designs work with the geography and with the materials instead of seeking dominion over the landscape.
The choice to go with film represents a similar struggle with form that has resulted in something new and refreshing. “We are so delighted with this year’s blend and grateful to the homeowners and architects, who enthusiastically and patiently embraced this alternative format,” she says.
Overall, the goal is for an even greater awareness of the ongoing architectural legacy on the West Coast of Canada, and Letwin agrees, “It is so important that design culture is fostered within our wider community and we are pleased that our Virtual West Coast Modern Home Tour is one way to encourage this.”
Eppich I House by Arthur Erickson
Originally built in 1972 and renovated by BattersbyHowat Architects in 2015, this home is one of the best by the legendary Arthur Erickson. With the iconic plateaus and generous glass, the home has been well preserved by the current owners. Viewers will be able to see inside this flagship of West Coast Modern design.
Merrick House, Paul Merrick Architect
Originally built as a home for Merrick and his family, this marvel has been intriguing commentators since 1972. It offers a radically different vision of modernism than the Eppich I House (some may even call it postmodern). The home, built in part from local logs, takes influence from sources as disparate as Japanese minimalism and Medieval Gothic.
Sturdy/Wardle House, Peter Cardew Architects
Built in 1998, this home was the result of a creative collaboration between Peter Cardew and the clients: artist Martha Sturdy and her partner David Wardle. This is a shy home, set back into the hills and trees, and viewers will be happy to see its textured, industrial personality in full.
Burgers House, Burgers Architecture
One of the more contemporary homes (2017), Burgers House represents the multigenerational tradition of modernism in British Columbia. The home was a collaboration between the late Robert Burgers, designer Marieke Burgers, and their son Cedric, who now heads the firm. The home represents the intersection of wholesome living and high design as well as a culmination and distillation of Robert’s extremely fruitful career.
Eaves House, McLeod Bovell Modern Houses
Freshly built (2021), the Eaves House typifies the modern home set between the residential city and the expanse of nature. Monumental and jutting, this home’s angular roof and masses point toward the future of West Coast architecture. McLeod Bovell continues to amaze us, and in the film we get a firsthand account of their process, from the emotional to the engineering.
Bonetti II House, BattersbyHowat
Another heavy hitter in contemporary West Coast architecture, BattersbyHowat is showcasing the designs for this home, which gives viewers a taste of what’s on the horizon for the tour. This home will be one of the selections for 2022’s return to in-person tours.