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 Kierkegaardian grey Nordic diffidence has been replaced by an aggressive play-making, just as Aquavit has been replaced with imported Scotch and Tequila.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.

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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