Mid-Century Modern House Tour

Explore the definitive West Coast Modern style


Saturday, September 20th 2014 1pm – 5pm


Thank you to everyone who attended the 2014 tour! We had a very successful day and look forward to the next one. Check back for details of future tours in early 2015.

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 Mid-Century Modern House Tour is both a bus and self-guided tour. Five mid-century modern houses will be open to ticket holders who have the opportunity of visiting them from 1-5pm.

The 2014 tour included a 1947 Ned Pratt designed home recognized as an A on the Vancouver Heritage Register. Pratt was instrumental in the early stages of the Modernist movement in Vancouver and the Saba Residence is a prime example of the Mid-Century integration of outdoor and indoor space. The Saba Residence is also one of the first in BC to utilize post and beam construction, a revolutionary construction method at the time.

We also visited one of the West Coast’s premier examples of mid-century architecture in the Downs Residence. Built in 1959 by Vancouver architect Barry Downs for his own family, this home has been featured in Western Homes & Living, and is the setting for one of Selwyn Pullan’s more recognizable images. This modest home is the epitome of unpretentious, family living in mid-century Vancouver and was selected for the Massey Medal Exhibition in 1961. When originally built much of the furniture was also designed by Mr. Downs, and many of the original fixtures still remain. With an impressive use of natural light and space, this remarkable home has a distinct relationship with the landscape, where native species were strategically planted where they would grow naturally.

Beyond the impressive architecture, mid-century landscaping played a significant role in the design of these homes. Internationally renowned landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander has been responsible for several projects around Vancouver including Robson Square. We were able to visit her second commission in Vancouver which still features all the original design elements. The only change to her original plan is a carp pond that replaced a patch of lawn.

After the tour Ticket holders enjoyed a post-tour wine and cheese reception, with a talk by UBC SALA Associate Professor Sherry McKay about the history of Modernism in Vancouver, held at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Designed by CBK Van Norman & Associates, the Maritime Museum is a wonderful example of mid-century A-frame construction.

"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 3 Non-Core LUs granted by the Architectural Institute of British Columbia.

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:

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