In 2017, the Vancouver Special House Tour offered a chance to get inside 5 examples of the now iconic housing style unique to Vancouver. With it’s basic floor plan and simple construction, the Vancouver Special is ideal for creative solutions and inventive ideas. This tour serves as a showcase for how these older homes can be transformed for modern living including some innovative solutions for housing several generations of the same family. Among the homes on tour were a 1975 Special updated by one of the pioneers of Special revitalization, Architect Stephanie Robb. The new design artfully blends memory with modern aesthetics that suit the new owners. Also featured was a 1970s era Special with a dramatic new renovation including a showstopping built-in wrap-around wood dining area that plays off the cedar ceiling and the overhaul of a home that was once an ode to violet, with purple shag carpet and matching walls.
Often utilized for multi-generational living, or as income helpers, the possibilities for two full floors of living space are nearly endless with a multitude of ways to personalize and adapt these family homes. Many homeowners have utilized the Specials generous floor plan to accommodate several generations in the same home. Learn about how to improve energy efficiency, speak to owners and experts in construction and materials about their own projects and come away with great ideas for retaining and reusing older housing.
The sheer quantity of Specials and their adaptability has made them very attractive to first time buyers. The well-built Special is adaptable for so many uses – family, rental suite, trendy pad – all making the most of the clean lines and minimalist living offered by these houses.
Many of the houses open on the tour demonstrate the integration of original Special features with modern Vancouver living, from modest to big budget. Check out this great video produced by rew.ca all about the Vancouver Special.
Love them or hate them, Specials represent a significant aspect of Vancouver’s architectural heritage. On the 2014 tour, we opened 5 Specials all with a unique spin on the classic Special, featuring a Joe Wai designed-home, a style found only in Strathcona, to a European styled home constructed from concrete block.
The 2014 pre-tour lecture included a talk about Strathcona to explain the infill housing from the 1970’s designed by the late architect Joe Wai. He talked at length about the SPOTA story and the community resistance that saved Strathcona in the late 1960’s.
From Restoring Community, VHF’s own heritage documentary, the cultural history of the Vancouver Special with Naveen Girn and the St. Amour family. Watch the full documentary here.