“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 and exposed new materials and technologies, and they conformed to new social ideals of embracing the outdoors, open plan living and functional design.
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 connected interiors with nature and natural light. VHF’s Mid-Century Modern House Tour celebrates the achievements of Vancouver architects from the 1940s through to the 1970s and beyond. As these mid-century homes reach their 5th, 6th and even 7th decade it is important to create awareness about the significance of this era of design and appreciate the long-standing contributions their innovations have had on our city’s development. Through this tour and other educational events we can better understand the simple beauty of a Modernist’s take on the ideal home.
Mid-Century Modernism embraces clean lines, raw materials and a close relationship with nature. In Vancouver we enjoy a specific adaptation in “West Coast Modernism” which made use of our abundant local natural resources and incredible landscape. The September 2016 tour of five residences included the Friedman Residence. Designed by Fred Lasserre in 1953 for Dr. Sydney and Dr Constance Friedman, this split-level home was designed for a triangular lot near UBC. After Dr Sydney Friedman’s death, UBC put the estate-donated residence up for sale in 2016 and many were concerned the home would be demolished. Fortunately, a couple passionate about the design era bought the home and invested in its long term future. Landscape Architect, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander was brought back to revitalize the landscape which remained intact since her design work in 1953.
Watch an interview with Cornelia Hahn Oberlander about working collaboratively with Lasserre on the original Friedman Residence.
Also on the tour were two examples of later Mid-Century Modernism in a 1982 Dalla Lana-Griffin designed home and a 1986 Bing Thom. Ray Griffin and Fred Dalla-Lana are representative of a second wave of architects who took over where earlier Modernists left off. Mentored by Arthur Erickson and Barry Downs, Griffin and Dalla-Lana designed homes that echoed many of Erickson’s design aesthetics. Their 80’s tour home illustrates the evolution of Mid-Century Modernism into post-modern design, and how Modernism continues to influence contemporary architecture.
Mid-Century Modern Articles
The Wong Residence
Open on the 2014 tour, the Cambie corridor Wong Residence just south of Queen Elizabeth Park 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 purchased by Pennyfarthing Homes who will incorporate the home into a large new housing development. The project will designate the home, maintain it as a single-family residence adjacent to a new multi-story building, and retain much of the original landscaping.