Living on the Edge: West Vancouver Modernist Homes 1940-1970
The exhibit is running throughout the summer and will end on September 17. Don't miss it!
Read on for exhibit photos and the text from the introductory panel.
Living on the Edge
West Vancouver Modernist Homes 1940 – 1970
West Coast Modernism, one of Canada's most prominent architectural movements, emerged in the middle of the twentieth century. Influenced in part by European modernism, Japanese design and the work of American architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra, Canadian architects and designers embraced West Vancouver's spectacular and rugged coastal landscape to produce a legacy of unique and award-winning residences. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, many of these homes were brought to the public’s attention through magazines, such as Western Homes and Living, which promoted modern trends in architecture, interiors and design.
Beginning in the early 1940s and continuing after the Second World War, architects, artists and designers actively explored relationships between their disciplines. Artist and educator B.C. Binning, an early proponent of the modern movement, designed his seminal flat-roofed house in 1941 and incorporated his painted murals into its design. Boundaries between the applied and fine arts were blurring and merging; in 1949, the Vancouver Art Gallery presented Design for Living, a Community Arts Council exhibition of modern room settings featuring locally designed furnishings, architectural plans and art.
West Vancouver’s rocky and precipitous topography and a comparatively mild climate inspired architects to use new construction techniques in their house designs. A flat or inclined roof, an open floor plan and extensive use of glazing, skylights and exterior doors were used to integrate indoor and outdoor spaces and exploit spectacular views of ocean and forest. Abundant local and inexpensive construction materials, such as hemlock, cedar and stone, linked the house to its surroundings and brought a natural palette into the living space.
Post-war optimism, economic prosperity and population growth led to an increase in consumer demand for affordable and functional housing. Using the “post and beam” method of construction - a regular placement of structural beams and posts combined with planking and standardized materials like plywood sheeting - a house could be built for five dollars a square foot. The distinct West Coast architectural style grew out of the creative and adaptive spirit of innovative architects and designers active between 1940 and 1970.