In Vancouver, homes with some significance have been facing the wrecking ball. Significance in that, they may have been designed in a specifically west coast style, may have been designed by a well known architect, built for a historically significant person or just have been able to withstand the test of time. Does the destruction of these homes matter, and should we care?
For some, it may be difficult to imagine a property listed in the millions of dollars in which the home is likely to be torn down. It is not only happening, it’s becoming common place. An example of this, in the City of West Vancouver, a 3,000 sq. ft. waterfront property, built in the 1960’s, has been listed in the neighbourhood of $10,000,000. This property may be purchased just for land it stands on, the home, which I would consider significant, is likely to be torn down.
I am not against change, I often embrace it. Change is necessary, and sometimes unavoidable.
The Vancouver media has paid some attention to this issue. Some of the articles, or at least some comments in response to, gave me the impression that often, it was only the homes age that was a determination of the homes worthiness for concern. “It was built in the 1960s, it’s not particularly old. What’s the big deal if it gets torn down?”
“Significant homes are significant not necessarily because of when, but because of who and why.”
The home was designed by renowned architect, Vancouver born and educated, Ron Thom (1926-1986). A Master Architect, he was responsible for such Modernist architectural masterpieces as Trent University and Massey College. Dying too early, he had yet been fully recognized for his exceptional vision. Arthur Erickson, perhaps Canada’s best-known modernist, said that Thom “is not only a master of siting but stemming directly from this, a master of scale.” Champlain College, Bata Library, Lady Eaton College and the Faryon Bridge are further examples of his work. They have won international recognition and innumerable prizes.
I realize that the price tag of this property has had little to do with the reason I wrote this article, accept that, for the buyer, it seems cost is less of an issue than it is for most of us. Could this home be updated? Besides giving up some excessive square footage that a newly built home would afford, I believe the home could be given a new life, maintaining the look and feel that the original owner and architect had. The new owner, in exchange, would get a home with “significance”, designed by a world renowned architect and could bask in the admiration of the people who care.
P.S. As an inspector of homes, I have had the privilege of seeing homes of all kinds, including many custom built homes that are truly remarkable in finish and architectural design. The designs often draw queues from the past. Is it important that we have physical examples of these architectural styles? Is it sufficient for these designs to exist only on drawing, unseen, & no longer able to be appreciated by the general public? It is important that we continue to draw on the designs from the past. Many of the elements filter down into the designs of today, not only to enhance the building aesthetically, but to draw on elements proven to function well in our climate.