Photo courtesy of Mr. Wilson Baker

Architectural Features of the West Coast Mid-Century Modern Home

Features of West Coast Modern homes share many of the architectural features of other Mid-Century Modern style homes, but again, with more of an emphasis on natural building features designed to complement local environmental elements:

  • Use of local materials: wood for interior and exterior construction.
  • Home built in harmony with surrounding landscape, with flow between interior and exterior environment.
  • Open floor plans.
  • Often private from street view with entrance away from the street.
  • Extensive glazing, skylights and big windows facing gardens, cliffs, surrounding landscape.
  • Post-and-beam construction, with exposed structural supports:
    – This form of construction was popular as it used strong, readily available materials which decreased the building costs of these homes, and the building method allowed construction on uneven lands as only footings and not full foundations were required.
  • Cantilevered floors supported by structural posts.
    – With the rocky terrain, cantilevered floors, supported by structural posts, allowed the home to be built around the existing environmental features, highlighting its connection with nature.
  • Roof: flat or slightly lifted and canted which allowed for clerestory windows, which are windows at the upper part of the wall that are designed to let light in.
  • Integration with natural setting, extensive use of native trees and landscaping.
  • Industrialized, mass-produced building materials, such as standard 4’ x 8’ plywood panels and gyp-rock, were integrated into the designs, which decreased the cost and time to build these homes.

The West Coast Modern house focused on how the home integrated with its surrounding landscape. Greg Bellerby, in West Coast Residential, includes how some of the well-known early architects of Mid-Century Modern in Vancouver, such as Pratt and Thom, would design a home and then landscape its surroundings, even recommending certain plantings.

While influenced by global factors, Modernism in BC’s Lower Mainland was unique due to its surrounding environment. It allowed local architects to develop a specific style, which put many of these architects, and their buildings, on a global platform.