Modernist home gets a 21st century update

by Trevor Boddy / The Globe and Mail Published February 2008

A thorough revamp of a 1956 home holds true to its heritage while re-energizing a beautiful space

‘Every time it snows,” says Bruce Stuart, “I put on Mike Oldfield’s recording of Tubular Bells, then watch the snowflakes drift down into the glass courtyard.” The theme from The Exorcist may be a fitting musical accompaniment to watching flakes dart and dance, but the house pride of Mr. Stuart and wife Marg is the tune that truly resonates here.

We are gazing at the 16-foot-square, glassed-in, snow-collecting courtyard at the centre of their modernist, Palm Springs-style house, designed by Vancouver architect R.R. McKee in 1956 for Stanley Waroway, owner of a beauty supplies company.

Mr. Stuart, a management consultant, and his wife, an interior designer, have restored the Endowment Lands home and added an extension. With its flavour of the 1960s desert retreats of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., the Stuart home stands in stark contrast to a woodsy West Coast-style house next door, designed by Ron Thom.


The original 1956 rendering made by R.R. McKee.  Architect Nick Milkovich’s U-shaped addition to the home is where the car port used to be. The plan of this squared-out house on a large lot with spectacular view could hardly be simpler: A square doughnut of living spaces and bedrooms around a central courtyard.

While the Stuart home’s window proportions and eave-height run of slatted sun-screens are carefully worked out, the plan … Read More

OVER THE TOP: Omer Arbel Humanizes ‘Master of the Universe’ Penthouse-cum-Showroom

by Trevor Boddy / The Globe and Mail Published November 2013

It is one of those ‘only in Vancouver’ tales.  The top two floors of the condo tower at 1000 Beach Avenue are roughed-in a decade ago—potentially the grandest penthouse in the entire city.  Construction proceeds only to raw unfinished concrete walls, with a never-used private lap pool, and an empty 35 foot high ceiling living room. This sky abode to-be was bought and sold a number of times, but never finished, never occupied.

While the price of this potential penthouse increased with every transaction, the fact that it could make people money without anyone ever actually living there became symbolic of a downtown Vancouver real estate scene soaring past vitality into absurdity. Why bother with paint, furniture and occupants, some in the business wondered, if there is money to be made on flipping a cipher, speculating on a ghost, trading on mere potential, rather than messy reality?

It is ‘Vancouverism’ in a nutshell that this proto-residence became more profitable than most others complicated by actual inhabitation. Like any icon, the empty space at 1000 Beach became the object of speculation and gossip, and over the past ten years, I have heard lots of it: “Pavel Bure has made an offer;” “They are going to subdivide the nearly 8,000 square feet of it—it’s too big for Vancouver;” “It’s going to be used as a diplomatic mission, or a VANOC guest house;” “Axl Rose is going to buy;” and most … Read More

A new design flair warms Nordic hearts

by Trevor Boddy / The Globe and Mail Published August 2007

With a Vancouver-like horizon of building cranes fore-grounded by dump-truck-laden roads, the Danish capital is wrapped up in a building boom it cannot quite understand, much less tame. While the city is smaller than ours, Copenhagen’s largely redundant port, former shipbuilding havens and deemed-surplus naval dockyards are much larger, but every bit of them now seems swamped in a development wave that is only a few years old.


The Danish dockside building boom has two key differences from our own: no building is taller than 10 stories; and developers must construct a 50-50 balance of housing and workspaces at every major development.  Copenhagen’s planners—low key experts who know Vancouver’s city-building in extraordinary detail—are resolved not to turn their city into a light-less and view-less resort for retirees and hot money investors.  Pass the Danish, please!


Copenhagen is changing with a rapidity seldom seen in Europe. Kierkegaardian grey Nordic diffidence has been replaced by an aggressive play-making, just as Aquavit has been replaced with imported Scotch and Tequila.  Stable, statist predictability falls before roller-coasters of speculation. For example, there is now an over-build of condos, but helpfully a new mania for harbour-side offices is just heating up. This is all because the ancient seat of Danish kings is emerging as the portal city for global business, choosing to locate here to serve all of Scandinavia from its comfortable streets.  The Vikings had nothing on these all-business Danes.

 … Read More

Arthur Erickson’s first masterpiece on sale

by Trevor Boddy / The Globe and Mail / Published in June 2007

 The “most beautiful house in Canada” is up for sale, and $10-million will net you a masterpiece. The Filberg house in Comox was called just that by Canadian Homes in 1961, soon after this airy, pavilion-like dwelling was completed.

The Arthur Erickson-designed house sits astride a spectacular bluff, blessed with one of the most astonishing views in the province: straight south to Hornby and Denman Islands, and past them on to the cone of volcanic Mount Baker, a hundred and sixty kilometres distant; east to the snow-capped peaks of the Coast Range on the mainland, and even west to the closer-in forests and mountain slopes of Vancouver Island.

With the possible exception of the West Vancouver B.C. Binning residence mentioned in last week’s column, the Filberg house has the best integration of modernist house with modernist landscape design in the province. The rolling lawns around the Robert Filberg house are deceiving, as according to Mr. Erickson, they are anything but natural: the slopes, views and shapes of the entire bluff-top landscape were altered by the client working closely with the architect.

“When I first arrived up there,” says Mr. Erickson, “Robert [Filberg]was on top of a small earth-mover, a caterpillar” scrapping and moving the soil of the prime ocean view land his lumber-baron father had long owned. Mr. Filberg had studied at the University of B.C. with Erickson in the early years of World War II, just … Read More