In the decades after World War II, West Vancouver became a hotbed of residential design. Its rugged landscape and prevailing rainforest climate inspired the so-called West Coast Style.
Architects like Arthur Erickson, Ron Thom, Barry Downs and Fred Hollingsworth designed some of their most iconic residences here. They were often built on modest lots, using humble materials like stucco and wood, with flat roofs, clerestory windows and exposed post-and-beam structures.
Karl Gustavson Architects
Karl Gustavson Architects is one of the more high profile firms in the region and has a storied pedigree. The company specializes in designing mid-rise and townhomes with an emphasis on function over form. The firm has been in business for over 30 years, and is also a registrar of the AIBC (Architectural Institute of BC). Some of the more notable achievements include the largest single family home built in West Vancouver in over 20 years and one of the largest condo towers in the province. Other accolades include being a member of the Design and Architecture Review board, a slew of AIBA awards and a spot on the coveted top-ten list of most influential architects in the region.
Besides their design chops, the firm also boasts a number of well-regarded project managers and architects with whom they have forged strong ties. In the real world, a successful partnership can make the difference between a great project and a truly outstanding one.
Merrick Architecture-Borowski Sakumoto McIntyre & Webb
One of the most enduring West Coast architecture firms, Merrick Architecture-Borowski Sakumoto McIntyre & Webb has an extensive portfolio of work that spans both urban and rural projects. They have four principals (Gregory Borowski, Mitch Sakumoto, Graham Fligg, and Shaun McIntyre) plus a team of thirty-five employees in their Vancouver and Victoria offices.
The firm is well known for its residential work, ranging from high-end condominiums to modest houses. Some of their most notable designs include the Sental House, a cliff-dwelling West Van residence; the Killey House on Kitsilano’s waterfront; and the coveted Swallows Landing development that features two residential towers set on Horseshoe Bay’s inner harbour.
Another noteworthy project is the Janion Hotel, which was transformed into micro-residential condos on behalf of Reliance Properties. “We were able to turn it around in a very short period of time, and I think that was something that the City really valued,” says Borowski.
He also reimagined the Marine Building and BC Hydro Electra Buildings, both of which he designed, to meet current design guidelines. And he has recently collaborated with Kengo Kuma on Alberni, a 43-storey office building that’s carved by emphatic scoops that form deep balconies furnished in wood.
In a career that spans more than 60 years, West Vancouver architect Paul Merrick has shaped the skylines of his home city and the surrounding areas. His design legacy includes a number of significant buildings, from the iconic Orpheum Theatre to the West Vancouver Memorial Library and his own renowned residence in Eagle Harbour.
Initially working with Ron Thom at Thompson, Berwick and Pratt, Merrick went on to co-found his own practice, now known as Merrick Architecture-Borowski Sakumoto, McIntyre & Webb in 1984. Today, he continues to design and consult on select projects for the practice.
As a resident of West Vancouver for six decades, Merrick has an immense influence on the region’s architectural heritage. His career spanned multiple genres, from midcentury modern to heritage, and he has helped shape the West Vancouver and Greater Vancouver regions as a whole.
Having spent his childhood in the 1939 Gertrude Lawson stone house a few blocks from where Merrick lives now, it was this local connection that led him to focus on architectural preservation. He believes that if we are to preserve our heritage and the communities they form, it’s important to have people who can see these places as an asset, rather than as a burden.
D’Arcy Jones Architecture
Founded by eponymous architect D’Arcy Jones in 2005, Vancouver-based studio D’Arcy Jones Architecture is known for thoughtful, efficient and modern design. With a nine-person team, the firm has completed projects in British Columbia and internationally, including in Toronto, California, and Switzerland.
D’Arcy Jones explains that his design process is to start from the interior then work outward. He begins by thinking about the way a room will function, and he is constantly drawing to ensure that every decision is well thought out.
For example, he says that a bedroom’s layout will often start with where the bed is placed in the space, and that the dining room will be designed from the table. This creates a sense of spatial continuity in the home, and it allows for an emotional connection to the interior spaces.
He also aims to create “nooks and crannies” within a space. For him, these are the places where people feel comfortable and connect with their surroundings.
In this case, the house’s H-shaped layout maximizes the stunning views of the untamed nature surrounding it, while glazed surfaces let in plenty of sunlight inside. These nooks and crannies serve to bind the home even closer to its natural setting, thereby ensuring that its residents remain as connected to nature as possible.
D’Arcy and his team were able to achieve this through an efficient wood structure that is projected to last for hundreds of years. Its use of wood was not just for aesthetic purposes though; it was also meant to serve as a tribute to this material that has been used so frequently in Canada.
This contemporary home is built on the west side of Vancouver, on a sundrenched lot that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The architect’s firm, D’Arcy Jones Architecture, aimed to create a modern estate that was in sync with the natural landscape surrounding it.
Its white cubist exterior is textured by stucco and clad in white-stained cedar batten, defined by overhangs, cutaways and reveals. The building’s massing introduces protected terraces and covered courtyard spaces at the entrance of each unit.
Vancouver’s urban core is built on a peninsula surrounded by beaches and mountains. Its temperate climate and easy accessibility to natural environments have influenced the city’s architecture, which includes a wide range of modern styles that blend European and American ideas with local characteristics.
The West Coast style, a modernist style popular throughout Greater Vancouver, utilizes the environment as a design element, with large roof overhangs to control the summer sun and passive solar heating in winter. Extensive glazing, which reflects the views and sunlight, is also a key feature of the home.
Measured Architecture is a design studio that works on homes, showrooms and exhibitions. They have received a number of awards for their work, including Wood Works BC, the AIBC, and Dwell Magazine.
Their latest project, the Cloister House, was completed in 2018. It is a three-storey residence that sits on top of a hill, with views of the nearby mountains and ocean. It was designed for a grandmother and her grandchildren.
Rather than demolish the existing bungalow, Measured Architecture worked with the City of Vancouver and Pacific Community Resources to save as much building material as possible while still achieving the architectural goals of the project. They also used the opportunity to experiment with materials, resulting in the Cloister House’s exterior facade made of blackened steel and concrete panels with charred wood markings.
Other projects by the firm include a laneway house wrapped in metal panels and a waterfront dwelling that hugs a rocky hillside. Several of their projects have been featured in Canadian Architect, Dwell and Western Living magazines.
The firm’s principal, Karl Gustavson, has more than 30 years of experience designing buildings in the West Vancouver area. He is an active member of the District of West Vancouver Zoning Review and has a passion for sensitive design that recognizes localized community context, budgets, and site conditions.
His projects range from small residential projects to large-scale mixed-use developments and commercial buildings. He believes that the most important aspect of any design is to connect with its environment and people.
Among many other things, David A. Grantham is a contributing author to UmassExtension West Vancouver Blo. He is a renowned expert on real estate in BC.
Born in North Vancouver, Louisiana, Dr. Grantham grew up in Lower Lonsdale. He then went on to complete his business degree at the University British Columbia. As of this writing, Grantham has completed over 100 projects, including the development of a high rise building in Vancouver.
He is a husband, father, son, brother, and friend. He was a dedicated outdoorsman and enjoyed sports such as hunting, fishing, scuba diving, and snow skiing. His wife, Alison Grantham, and their two daughters survived him. He is survived by his wife Alison Martin Grantham and two daughters.