Mid-Century Modern House Tour

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Explore the timeless aesthetic of an influential architectural movement

Saturday, September 24th 2016

Tour 1pm – 5pm, Reception 5pm – 7pm

Bus & Reception $110 + tax; Self-guided & Reception $85 + tax (currently at capacity); Self-guided (without reception) $60 + tax


Please note the reception is currently at capacity for self-guided ticket holders. Please contact us if you would like to be added to the reception wait list. The reception is included with all bus tickets, and tickets to attend the tour only are still available. 

Join us to explore the iconic West Coast architectural movement: Mid-Century Modernism. Inspired by the innovative Modernist style, Mid-Century Modernism embraces clean lines and a close relationship with nature. In Vancouver we enjoyed a specific adaptation in West Coast Modernism which made use of our abundant local natural resources and incredible landscape. In 2016, we look at five examples of this significant design movement found in Vancouver including the impressive Friedman Residence. Designed by Fred Lasserre in 1953 for Dr. and Mrs. Sydney Friedman, this split-level home is uniquely fit into an irregular lot at UBC. It recently came on the market and many were concerned the small scale of the home compared to the large lot would make it quick to be demolished. However a buyer passionate for the style scooped it up and it will now be featured on our tour.

Also on the tour is an intriguing example of later Mid-Century Modernism in a 1982 Dalla Lana-Griffin designed home. Ray Griffin and Fred Dalla-Lana are representative of a second wave of architects taking off where earlier Modernists left off. Having learned from the masters such as Arthur Erickson and Barry Downs, Griffin and Dalla-Lana’s early homes updated many of Erickson’s design aesthetics. This home shows the development of Mid-Century Modernism and how it continues to influence contemporary architecture. After the tour, those who elect the reception option will join us at the Vancouver Maritime Museum for a wine and cheese post-tour reception. Enjoy conversation with other Mid-Century Modernism enthusiasts and a short talk from guest speaker Christopher MacDonald, Professor of Architecture at UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and author of A Guide to Contemporary Architecture in Vancouver.

Are you interested in taking a VHF house tour but not sure what to expect? Read our First Timer’s Guide to House Tours here.

Do you or someone you know live in a house that may be a good fit for one of our tours? We are continually searching for great examples of heritage or character, mid-century modern design, sympathetic lane homes behind heritage homes, or renovated Vancouver Specials to open on our tours. If you’d like to know more, or have your home considered for inclusion on a future tour, contact us 604 264 9642 or by email.

The Wong House Update:

_MG_8157 low resOpen on the 2014 tour, the Wong House is a lovely Mid-Century Modern home designed by Henry Lee who worked for Duncan McNab. Built for the parents of known philanthropist and businessman Milton Wong, the home has been passed down through three generations of the Wong Family. The home has heritage value for its association to Milton Wong, as well as its architecture. It also benefits from landscape design by internationally renowned landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, who has been responsible for several projects around Vancouver including Robson Square. The Wong House was her second commission in Vancouver and still features all the original design elements. The only change to her original plan is a carp pond that replaced a patch of lawn.

The Wong House was recently purchased from the Wongs by Pennyfarthing Homes who are looking at incorporating the home into a new housing development. The proposed design would designate the home, maintain it as a single-family residence and retain much of the original landscaping. The proposal also includes a 7 storey tower and a laneway home at the rear of the site.

In 2015 we visited a number of remarkable buildings, including the renovated B.C. Electric Building, now The Electra. This award-winning showstopper was one of the first Modernist buildings in Vancouver and is recognized across Canada for its innovative design. Originally the head office of B.C. Electric, or B.C. Hydro, the building was converted into condos in the early 1990s. VHF has written about this building and its influential design for Spacing Vancouver. Check out the articles here and here.

We also explored examples of the influential Mid-Century Modernist style such as the remarkable 1962 Danto Residence designed by Arthur Erickson,  enjoyed the rare opportunity to see inside Arthur Erickson's own home and garden and compared the expansive commissioned work indicative of Erickson's famed style with the relatively modest home he designed for himself. We also saw some inventive work that explores the design characteristics that are hallmarks of the movement. We wrapped up the day with a wine and cheese reception at the stunning West Coast Modern home recently used in the Tim Burton feature film "Big Eyes". 

"Less is More", the phrase coined by the German designer Mies van der Rohe, aptly describes the Modern Movement that began in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. Modernist designs were without historical precedent, they used new materials and technologies, and they conformed to a social ideal.

Vancouver developed an adaptation of the modern aesthetic known as West Coast Regional Style. Local designers used post-and-beam construction, stepped flat roofs with clerestory windows and wide expanses of glass that integrated the house with the natural setting.

Professional Development Credits: The Mid-Century Modern Tour qualifies for 4.0 Non-Core LUs granted by the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. All other organizations are self reporting.

Mid-Century Modern Articles

A Lesson in Zoned Architectural Protection from Ottawa - Globe and Mail

At 93, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander is still one of Canada's most beloved landscape architects - Globe and Mail


Check out previous Mid-Century Modern tour brochures here: