West Coast Modern Home Tour
A fundraiser surveys Modern and contemporary homes in West Vancouver.
For architecture aficionados, a highlight of each summer is the West Vancouver Art Museum’s annual West Coast Modern Home Tour. For this frequent attendee, the 2023 tour was haunted by the ghost of Arthur Müdry’s late great Beaton house—a 1965 paean to Pacific forest that met an untimely end when it was sold and demolished in 2018. When the Beaton house was part of the tour, Müdry told me in a subsequent interview: “Nature is sacrosanct… One of the sins of our time is that when we find beauty in nature, we never know how to live with it in the right relationship.”
Müdry’s belief in the sanctity of nature resonates in his 1989 Chun House, on this year’s tour. Like its predecessor, this gem was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as by Müdry’s fascination with gothic architecture.
Surely one of the other architectural sins of our time is the price-per-square-footage-driven disappearance of mid-century modern classics. The preservation of our modernist heritage is one of the annual tour’s noble aims. But it also appeals to a certain generational looky-loo longing from those of us on the wrong side of real estate history, to see what once-middle-class homes sited in majestic wilderness actually looked like.
The fundraiser is part of a West Coast Modern Week that includes lectures and events, and is presented by British Pacific Properties, a developer involved with West Vancouver since 1931. Preternaturally nostalgic, the tour celebrates an architectural moment before the city of West Vancouver’s demographic sea change, and is as much a festival of old guard culture as it is a preservationist cause.
And yet, as one wanders through the vaulted ceilings, natural light, and stunning views from every angle of the Chun home, it’s easy to imagine these homes that seem to levitate off the gorgeous landscape as the cathedrals of our time.
This is perhaps most literally true of Paul Merrick’s boathouse on this year’s agenda, which he designed as an extension of the luxury Sewell’s Landing apartments in Horseshoe Bay. Merrick says the arcing structure was inspired by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.
But it’s the sacredness of both nature and the single-family home that pervades the tour. Wolfgang Gerson’s 1967 Itzinger-Meuldyk house in Caulfeild—down the hill from an of-the-era Erickson and perched on a steep, forested site—honours its mid-century roots even as it transcends them. It was opened up to the spectacular view of Howe Sound by architect and owner Jason Wexler and his wife when they removed a brick fireplace in the living room, bringing the outdoors in.
Rather than a sense of exposure to the elements, Donald Manning’s 1955 post-and-beam house in the British Properties, elegantly renovated by Georg Koslowski in 1978 and by ABC last year, feels like a sleek sanctuary cocooned by forest.
The owners of the 1957 Ron Thom Carmichael house have replaced a wall in the dining area with foldable glass panels to reveal an ocean view, and moved the original door to create a light-filled hallway. The respectful updates still allow the hexagonal plan to express a sense of tightly choreographed domesticity. The perfectly sited home has the magical effect of bringing the geometry inside the visitor, as they tour this mid-century looking glass, gazing out across the harbour at the downtown micro-lofts they call home.
Hadani Ditmars is a journalist, author, and photographer.