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Posted by: Myles Constable on April 17, 2014 at 10:23 am

Today the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) reaches a major milestone, as a collector of precious artifacts from around the world and the protector of Vancouver’s past. In recognition of 120 years, MOV will host a celebration on May 29th when admission will be $1.20 (always free for members). Following the Annual General Meeting that evening, birthday cake will be served and BC Place will be lit in the Museum’s colours.

MOV’s celebration will continue on their social media channels with photos of artifacts representing 120 years of accessions, shared daily at 1:20pm. Check out this timeline of artifacts that were acquired into our collection.

MOV’s 120th anniversary is not only an acknowledgment of history, but of Vancouver’s history. As MOV CEO Nancy Noble explains, “In Canadian terms, we are an old museum with an old collection. For 120 years this museum has been the repository of the material culture and collective memory of this city. We are a reflection of Vancouver’s identity over time. That is valuable in and of itself.”

In 1894, a group of visionaries formed Vancouver’s Art, Historical and Scientific Association. Soon after, the City Museum was created at the Carnegie Library location at Main and Hastings. In 1967, the city announced the construction of the current landmark building in Vanier Park as part of Canada’s centennial. Designed by well-known architect Gerald Hamilton, the Museum’s distinctive dome top was inspired by the shape of a woven basket hat made by Northwest Coast First Nations people. In 1981, the Centennial Museum was re-named the Vancouver Museum and featured permanent displays, exhibitions and educational programs about the natural, cultural and human history of the Vancouver region.

Society continues to transform and museums have had to adapt to that change. In 2008, the Museum underwent a visioning process that resulted in a shift in focus, taking a cross-disciplinary approach and engaging the community in dialogue about contemporary issues of our city. To reflect the new vision, the Museum changed its name to the Museum of Vancouver in 2009.

“We don’t collect the way colonial collectors did, nor do we communicate information in the same way we did 120 years ago,” Noble explains. “As a contemporary museum, MOV wants to push the boundaries of our role. We believe that the power of history and collections bind the community together, but we want to go beyond that to engage our community in building our collections, telling their own stories, debating contemporary issues and hopefully shaping the future of Vancouver.”

 

Posted by: Myles Constable on March 10, 2014 at 12:23 pm

On Saturday, Dec 14th, families, youth, MOV members, architecture students and the community of the curious got their chance to celebrate the creative spirit of the late Vancouver Architect, Daniel Evan White - with LEGO!

“DIY Daniel: LEGO Build Day” featured two big rooms overflowing with LEGO supplied by The Vancouver Lego Club and the Vancouver Lego Games. The family friendly build day featured an opportunity to view Lego models, connect with expert Lego geeks and opportunities to build some amazing creations.

Folks built very detailed life-sized bust of Captain Vancouver (with nautical captains hat!), a near perfect façade of the Vancouver Art Gallery, 6-foot tall mega skyscraper, as well as very precise abstract forms inspired by Daniel Evan White’s Architecture floor plans made available at each table in simple black and white shapes.

The day started with a Modern Masterpieces: Speed Building contest that was swiftly won by budding LEGO whiz, Aidan Wilson. His dexterity and spatial intelligence was impressive! Later that day, another youth, Kai Darrell placed first in: Make Yours Look like Daniels: DEW Inspired Build. For this contest, Kai built his own creation using basic white bricks in order to make a 3 dimensional interpretation of a DEW blueprint. The judges for this event were the DEW exhibit co-curators: Greg Johnson and Martin Lewis.

Other highlights included Johnathan Vaughan Strebly’s custom designed instructions (download PDF) that helped participants build Daniel Evan White’s famous Maté House out of LEGO!

Also for the kids, we had photographer Ben Cooper, take Polaroid photos of their unique creations in order to give them a keepsake to remember the day. As a child of the 80’s Ben enjoyed the astonished reactions of the kids of today who have been raised in a digital age as they watched the picture of their creation slowly appear in-front of their eyes.

If you want to come check out the exhibit that inspired this event, you have only a few weeks! Playhouse: The architecture of Daniel Evan White closes March 23rd, 2014.

- Adrian Sinclair

Posted by: Myles Constable on February 28, 2014 at 4:08 pm

 

Visitors to the Museum of Vancouver's Rewilding Vancouver exhibit may be inspired to help REWILD Vancouver.

The following is a list of local organizations who are doing their part to preserve and improve our environment. Please consider lending your support to one or more of these groups:

 

Pacific Salmon Foundation

www.psf.ca

604-664-7664

 

GENERAL ENVIRONMENT – NATIONAL

 

The David Suzuki Foundation                                             

www.davidsuzuki.org

(604) 732-4228                      

 

Green Peace                                      

www.greenpeace.org/canada           

604-253-7701             

 

Pembina Institute                                         

www.pembina.org

604-874-8558             

 

Ecojustice                                          

www.ecojustice.ca

604-685-5618             

 

 

GENERAL ENVIRONMENT – PROVINCIAL

 

Sierra Club of Canada (BC Chapter)                                               

www.sierraclub.bc.ca

250-386-5255             

 

Evergreen BC

www.evergreen.ca/en/evergreen-bc                    ...

604-689-0766

 

BC Stewardship Centre                                            

www.stewardshipcentrebc.ca

1-866-456-7222                     

 

South Coast Conservation Program                                               

www.sccp.ca

 

Fraser Basin Council 

604-488-5350             

 

 

GENERAL ENVIRONMENT – LOWER MAINLAND

 

Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) 

www.spec.bc.ca

604-736-7732             

 

The Lower Mainland Green Team               

www.meetup.com/The-Lower-Mainland-Green-Team              ...

 

Better Environmentally Sound Transportation                                        

best.bc.ca

(604) 669-2860                      

 

Raincoast Applied Ecology

www.raincoastappliedecology.ca      

604-742-9890             

 

Metro Vancouver Regional Parks Ecological Restoration Team

www.meetup.com/Regional-Parks-Connect-Metro-Vancouver

 

Kits Eco-Arts                                      

kitsecoarts.wordpress.com

 

Still Moon Arts Society

stillmoon.org

 

Langley Environmental Partners Society                                       

www.leps.bc.ca                             ...

 

Earthwise Society (Boundary Bay)               

www.earthwisesociety.bc.ca

604-946-9828             

 

Ceed Centre Society (Maple Ridge & Pitt Meadows)

www.ceedcentre.com

604-463-2229             

 

 

GENERAL ENVIRONMENT - YOUTH

 

Environmental Youth Alliance

www.eya.ca                               ...

604-689-4446             

 

Catching the Spirit Youth Society              

www.catchingthespirit.com

604-562-0583  
                     

 

Young Environmental Professionals (CEP Vancouver)     

www.cepvancouver.org                          ...

 

 

WATERSHEDS

 

BCIT Rivers Institute, School of Construction and the Environment

commons.bcit.ca/riversinstitute                    

 

Fraser River Discovery Centre                     

www.fraserriverdiscovery.org

604-521-8401

 

Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition            

fvwc.ca           

 

False Creek Watershed Society

 

St. George Rainway              

mtpleasantwatershed.wordpress.com                                  

 

Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society/Birds on the Bay

www.birdsonthebay.ca

604-536-3552             

 

 

STREAMKEEPERS

 

Pacific Stream Keepers Federation                                     

www.pskf.ca

604-986-5059             

 

Fraser Riverkeeper

www.fraserriverkeeper.ca

604-786-0888             

 

North Shore Streamkeepers                                               

www.nssk.ca  

604-990-2410             

 

West Vancouver Streamkeepers Society

 

Stoney Creek Environment Committee                                         

scec.ca                                   

 

Squamish Streamkeepers    

www.squamishstreamkeepers.net

 

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers            

byrnecreek.org

 

Mosquito Creek Stewardship Society        

www.mosquitocreek.org

604-986-6715             

 

Cougar Creek Streamkeepers                      

www.vcn.bc.ca/cougarcr

 

Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society

www.keeps.org

604-970-8404

 

Alouette River Management Society                                 

www.alouetteriver.org

604-467-6401             

 

 

WETLANDS

 

Balance Ecological    

www.balance-ecological.com           

 

North Shore Wetland Partners                               

www.nswetlandpartners.com                        

 

Burns Bog Conservation Society                                         

www.burnsbog.org

604-572-0373             

 

The Crazy Boggers (Camosun Bog Restoration Group)

camosunbog.org                                

 

 

OCEAN & SHORELINES

 

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup                        

www.shorelinecleanup.ca                 

1-877-427-2422                     

 

Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation

Burrard Inlet Restoration Pilot Program

1-800-387-9853                     

                       

West Vancouver Shoreline Preservation Society             

www.westvanshoreline.ca

 

North Vancouver Save Our Shores Society                       

www.nv-saveourshores.ca

 

Wreck Beach Preservation Society

www.wreckbeach.org

 

 

PARKS

 

Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society (BC Chapter)                                 

cpawsbc.org

604-685-7445, ext. 0  

 

Pacific Parklands Foundation

www.pacificparklands.com

604-451-6168             

 

Pacific Spirit Park Society                

West Area Park Office                                   

604-224-5739                                     

 

Hastings Park Conservancy

www.hastingspark.ca

 

Jericho Stewardship Group                         

 

Stanley Park Ecology Society                                              

stanleyparkecology.ca                                   

604-257-6908 

 

Lighthouse Park Preservation Society                   

www.lpps.ca

 

Burnaby Lake Park Association

www.burnabylakepark.ca      

604-520-6442             

 

Friends of Cypress Provincial Park Society

www.cypresspark.ca                          

           

Minnekhada Park Association

www.minnekhada.ca

 

 

FORESTS

 

Canadian Urban Forest Network

tcf-fca.ca/programs/urbanforestry/cufn                  

 

Tree Canada

treecanada.ca                        

613-567-5545

 

Wildlife Tree Stewardship Program

 

Tree City                    

treecitycanada.ca                              

604-215-1914             

 

Tree Keepers program                                 

treekeepers.ca                       

 

Old Growth Conservancy Society               

ogcs.ca

 

Sunnyside Acres Heritage Society              

www.sunnysideacres.ca

604-501-5158             

 

 

URBAN FARMING

 

Edible Garden Project                                              

ediblegardenproject.com

604-987-8138, ext. 231          

 

Fresh Roots Society                                      

freshrootsurbancsa.wordpress.com  

778-862-3276             

 

The Sharing Farm Society                                        

www.sharingfarm.ca

604-227-6210

                       

North Surrey Organic Garden Society       

nscommunitygarden.wordpress.com                        

 

 

LAND CONSERVATION

 

Nature Trust of BC                                       

www.naturetrust.bc.ca

604-924-9771             

 

Land Conservancy of BC                                          

blog.conservancy.bc.ca

 

 

WILDLIFE

 

World Wildlife Foundation                                     

www.wwf.ca

1-800-26-PANDA (1-800-267-2632)               

 

The Pacific WildLife Foundation                                         

www.pwlf.org

 

BC Wildlife Federation                                             

bcwf.net

604-882-9988

 

Native Plants Society of BC (NPSBC)

www.npsbc.ca

604-255-5719

 

Invasive Species Council of BC

www.bcinvasives.ca                           

1-888-933-3722                     

                       

Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia                        

www.wildbirdtrust.org

604-922-1550             

 

Pacific Salmon Foundation

www.psf.ca

604-664-7664

 

Coastal Painted Turtle Project                    

www.facebook.com/paintedturtleproject                             

 

Amphibians of the Sunshine Coast                                     

rainfrog.ca                             

 

Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society                     

www.frasersturgeon.com

604-664-7664, ext. 107          

 

North Shore Black Bear Society                  

northshorebears.com

604-317-4911             

 

 

NATURALISTS

 

Nature Conservancy Canada (BC Chapter)

www.natureconservancy.ca/en/where-we-work/british-columbia

1-888-404-8428 (in BC)

 

BC Nature - Federation of BC Naturalists

www.bcnature.ca

 

Young Naturalists' Club of BC

www.ync.ca

604-985-3057

 

Nature Vancouver (Vancouver Natural History Society)

www.naturevancouver.ca

604-737-3074

 

White Rock and Surrey Naturalists

www.facebook.com/WRSnaturalists

                      

 

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Posted by: Charles Montgomery on January 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm

By Seth Geiser

Can art and design make us kinder? Can we design more trust or altruism into the city?

MOV invited students from CityStudio, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and SFUs School of Interactive Art and Technology to consider these questions through design.

The challenge? To create experiments and designs to test or boost feelings of trust and connection among total strangers.

On Nov 23, students tested their designs on hundreds of members of the public during two events at the Museum of Vancouver. We called this experiment The Happy City Machine. The student work was eye-opening, thought-provoking, and often great fun. Guest judge Marten Sims of the Vancouver Design Nerds helped choose three standout experiments. Here they are:

Now You See Me (ECUAD students)

Seated in adjoining isolation booths, pairs of participants were asked to don a pair of headphones and gaze through a long, narrow tunnel at eye height. Initially looking into darkness, each participant discovered at the switch of a light that a stranger was gazing back at them from the other end of the viewing tunnel. They were left to gaze at each others’ eyes for the duration of a song, such as "It's a Wonderful World." The experience led them well past the point of social comfort. Some shut their eyes. But most did not back away from the intimacy. After each round, the strangers would be introduced and invited to chat about their experience. Participants reported engaging in all kinds of ocular communication, from winks to moving their eyes in time with the music in a kind of playful dance. Most described the experience as positive, which is surprising given our general fear of eye contact with strangers.

Mani Mahmoudian image

Seth Geiser image

Rock the Boat (ECUAD students)

This installation consisted of a small wooden boat under a broad umbrella, onto which video was projected from below. Volunteers were invited into the boat's snug seating, where they were prompted to share secrets and jokes, and explore the idea that "we're all in the same boat." It's often hard to nudge strangers into proximity, but Rock the Boat succeeded, using clever design, intriguing projections and cozy arrangement to lure people together.

Mani Mahmoudian image

Mani Mahmoudian image

Laughing Dresses (SFU-SIAT students)

Laughter is contagious. But what if the laughter emerges disembodied through a hidden speaker and is accompanied by twinkling lights? This kinetic fashion experiment explored the idea using a motion-sensing dress that emitted the recorded sounds of the dress wearer's laughter. The intensity and pattern of laughter was determined by the movements of the wearer. The dress triggered an almost-viral chorus of laughter among party-goers.

Charles Montgomery image

It was wonderful to see the student designs getting so many strangers talking and playing together. The program convinced us to take things up a notch in 2014. Our new program, Urban Cortex, empowers students to take their social devices into the public realm. Stand by for event news!

Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on December 3, 2013 at 11:32 am

Help us deliver a museum experience with the power to change a city!

Four years ago the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) embarked on a new vision, direction, and brand. At the time, we felt the museum had lost its relevancy and that it was time to step back and find out what Vancouverites really wanted. We discovered that citizens were looking for a neutral space for provocative conversation and dialogue about Vancouver and what it means to live here. As a result, we decided to turn the traditional museum on its head: instead of curating a story and telling it to the public, we would invite the community to help us tell important stories. Instead of just being a museum LOCATED in Vancouver we would become a museum ABOUT Vancouver.

        

This innovative way of engaging with Vancouverites has seen huge success through recognition by our peers and awards received since our re-branding. In creating the exhibition Sex Talk in the City, we worked extensively with an advisory group of 18 experts to develop an exhibition that promoted a healthy, public dialogue about sexuality in Vancouver. The result was a deeply engaging exhibition that the public responded to positively, despite the provocative topic.

  Where else in the city can you freely and playfully explore how you might like to transform a downtown street? At MOV’s Upcycled Urbanism last July, we pulled together, artists, students, designers, and anyone with an interest in rebuilding a piece of Vancouver to do just that. Together, we transformed a block of Granville Street. Upcycled Urbanism, in partnership with the UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, (SALA) we helped the public re-imagine public art and street amenities.

When you donate to the Museum of Vancouver, your gift makes a big impact! You help people of all ages connect more deeply and relevantly to our city and its history.

By visiting the MOV, becoming a member, renewing your membership, or making a cash donation, you help ensure the long-term sustainability of an institution that has been around since 1894.

 

Your tax deductible gift of $50 or more will ensure we can keep delivering provocative exhibitions and programs.

For more information about the MOV or making a donation please contact our Director of Development, Debbie Douez at 604.730.5304 or ddouez@museumofvancouver.ca. You can also make your donation online from our website at www.museumofvancouver.ca/support.

Be part of the community of the curious and help the MOV continue to pursue its vision: To hold a mirror up to the city and lead provocative conversations about its past, present, and future.

Thank you kindly for your support!

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Posted by: Paul Carr on October 31, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Design Sundays return to the MOV this November. Part of a recurring series made possible through rotating partnerships with local education institutions, this latest iteration of Design Sundays is presented in collaboration with the Chip & Shannon Wilson School of Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU). Design Sundays | Urban Imprints: The Interior Life of West Coast Living invites designers, architects, and the plain curious to learn about and discuss Vancouver’s urban design culture through the lenses of interior design, lived experience, ergonomics, and the utopian ideals of West Coast Modernist Architecture – all as they relate to issues of density and the conservation of limited, shared space.

Join us for 4 Sundays in November 2013 as KPU faculty speak to the wider issues, inspirations, and challenges that configure their Vancouver-based design research, practice, and teaching. Joining us themselves on the heels of the MOV’s recent delving into (West Coast) Modernist Architecture through the exhibition Play House: The architecture of Daniel Evan White, this group of KPU instructors will facilitate interactive dialogues refocusing Design Sundays from examinations of external, built form to instead look (literally) inside toward interior form and spatial design. The series culminates on November 24 with a screening and filmmaker Q&A for Coast Modern, the 2012 documentary examining the spellbinding homes created by pioneers of West Coast Modernist Architecture, and the types of living they inspired within.

 

Sunday, November 3, 2:00pm-4:00pm with Brenda Snaith
Laneway Homes: Emergent evolutions for compact living and sustainability

Brenda Snaith is an Instructor of Interior Design at the Chip & Shannon Wilson School of Design (KPU) and VP Education at the Interior Designers Institute of British Columbia.
Join Brenda for a participatory workshop and discussion on the functional design and aesthetic criteria for small footprints through a critique of laneway housing plans proposed by emerging and student designers.

Get tickets: http://nov3designsundays.eventbrite.com/

 

Sunday, November 10, 2:00pm-4:00pm with Erika Balcombe
Inside Small Spaces: Designing within density

Erika Balcombe is an Instructor of Interior Design at the Chip & Shannon Wilson School of Design (KPU). Join Erika for a discussion on the ever-shrinking footprints of residential spaces in dense urban centres, the relationship between living and happiness in confined quarters; and creative strategies to expand beyond these cramped enclosures.

Get tickets: http://nov10designsundays.eventbrite.com/

 

Sunday, November 17, 2:00pm-4:00pm with Dan Robinson
Human Factors: Ergonomics of urban living

Dan Robinson is an Instructor at the Chip & Shannon Wilson School of Design (KPU) and a Certified Professional Ergonomist. Join Dan for a discussion on the interactions between people and things that shape urban living and design in Vancouver.

Get tickets: http://nov17designsundays.eventbrite.com/

 

Sunday, November 10, 2:00pm-400pm with Coast Modern Filmmakers
Coast Modern (film & Q+A)

Design Sundays wraps up with a special screening of this stunning documentary showcasing the inspirational homes designed by pioneers of West Coast Modernist Architecture. Join filmmakers Gavin Froome and Gavin Bernard alongside KPU faculty for a critical consideration of these utopian masterpieces in relation to Vancouver’s tighter, vertical living typologies; density debates, and sustainability goals.

Get tickets: http://nov24designsundays.eventbrite.com/

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Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on October 17, 2013 at 3:53 pm

White Space from Michael Lis on Vimeo.

Earlier, we released Part I of an interview that MOV curator Viviane Gosselin did with our guest curators Greg Johnson and Martin Lewis. Here's Part II, where they delve into what it was like to actually build the exhibition, and get into Dan White's inspirations.

 

VG: Could you talk about the decision to construct a huge model of the Máté Residence in the centre of the exhibition gallery?

ML: One of the most compelling features of Dan’s work is its play with scale. On the one hand, it is clear that the forms are meant to be read as objects in the landscape. On the other hand, they are clearly functional homes. The fact that they can be enlarged and reduced and rescaled as artefacts, almost at will, and certainly without losing their essence, speaks to how well considered they are. The Maté Residence is 1/4 full scale, which is large for a model but clearly small as a house. So, there should be an interesting, almost arresting dynamic as the viewer confronts this artefact. Are we suddenly four times normal size? Does vital information get lost or abstracted? Do we gain a radically new perspective? We want to ask: ‘Is it big or is it small?’ That ambiguity (of scale and size) is one of the strengths of Dan’s work, and we wanted to communicate this idea effectively in the exhibition space itself.

 

VG: I know that one of the curatorial intents was to have the gallery space make continual references to Dan White’s work. Could you speak to this?

GJ: Yes. Rather than introduce forms that competed with his work, we decided to use a limited palette that might complement and reinforce the reading of his own formal vocabulary. That is to say, we introduced the square, cube, diagonal, triangle, parallelogram, etc. as the principal components of the exhibition. So in a way, visitors can appreciate that the museum experience itself is a way of experiencing these abstracted forms at varying scales. 

 

VG: The exhibition uses a multitude of representational methods to interpret Dan’s work: orthographic projections, physical models, 3D computer models, etc. Is there a subtext about the nature of drawing and modelling?

ML: Architecture suffers from a problem of appropriate representation. As Julius Shulman, one of the pioneer photographers of Modern Architecture, noted, it really wants to be experienced by all senses; so, any substitute for that experience – the model, the photograph, the drawing – won’t do justice to the original work. These limitations and challenges associated with architectural representation led us to emphasize the premise and concept of individual projects in evolution rather than the finished product.

 

VG: What about the large portrait of Dan, made up of small icons?

ML: One of Dan’s primary influences was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the German architect who came to the USA in the 1930s. He designed the Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, in 1953, one of the most influential buildings of mid-century architecture. We were acutely aware of the graphic work the design firm 2x4 did with the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), at Mies’s Illinois Institute of Technology campus in Chicago. So, we liked the idea of a portrait that played with the idea of scale and could be constructed of icons representing Dan’s houses.

 

VG: How are you referencing other works in the exhibition?

ML: We decided that some of our research would involve looking at how the work of architects had been represented in museum and art gallery exhibitions. To start with the classics, there is Mies van der Rohe’s exhibition career, starting in 1926; the Existenzminimum of 1929 in Frankfurt; Hitchcock’s and Johnson’s seminal International Style, at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, in 1939. Of course, now it is not uncommon for architects to curate their own work; in fact, in the age of instant media, it is almost compulsory to embrace that approach as a form of advertising.

Inspirational were exhibition projects such as the Frank Lloyd Wright retrospective at the Guggenheim, NY (2009), ‘Content’ by OMA in Berlin (2003), and ‘Alvar Aalto in the Eyes of Shigeru Ban’ in London (2007), but also countless smaller exhibitions over the years, including ‘Art Into Life’ at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle (1990).

We tend to look at everything. Bik Van Der Pol’s  ‘Butterfly’ installation (Rome, 2010) is one. ‘Grand Hotel’ at the Vancouver Art Gallery (2013), featuring the exquisite models of some of our collaborators, is another recent example. We thought that ‘Ron Thom and the Allied Arts’ at the West Vancouver Museum (2013) was extremely well designed and presented.

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Posted by: Amanda McCuaig on October 9, 2013 at 3:56 pm

In this final installment of "Who was Daniel Evan White" MOV curator Viviane Gosselin explores how the 2 guest curators got to know Dan and what what working with him was like. Play House: the architecture of Daniel Evan White is on now until March 23, 2013.

 

VG: When did you first learn about Dan White?

ML: Through a University of Toronto acquaintance, who became Dan’s longest associate, of more than 25 years – Russell Cammarasana. I had noticed the Ma Residence on Spanish Banks when I first came to Vancouver in 1986, because of its sheer audacity and obvious dexterity. But years later, when visiting Russell at the studio, I think Dan mentioned that they were getting very busy and needed some help. It was completely circumstantial. I worked and consulted with Dan’s firm intermittently over a period of 20 years and had the opportunity to work with Dan on his very last project (unbuilt) in 2010.

GJ: I remember the first time I saw one of Dan White’s houses, soon after returning from my architectural studies in Montréal. The house was located on one of those rugged West Coast sites so impossible to build on that it had likely been labelled as unsuitable for development: steep, rocky slopes descending to the ocean, very difficult vehicle access and covered with impenetrable vegetation.

Although still incomplete, the house already exhibited those characteristics so typical of all of Dan’s work – bold, simple and dramatic, with strong, repetitive, geometric forms, fitted to the site in a manner that made it look like it had always been there.

I was fortunate at that time to be sharing office space with Steve Zibin, a long-time colleague of Dan. Steve always spoke so highly of Dan, crediting him with instilling in Steve a strong sense of design. He sent me off in search of the many buildings they had worked on together, most of them hidden away on difficult-to-access sites around the Great Vancouver area. I became familiar with the large body of exceptional work Dan’s office had produced, and at the same time more puzzled as to why these outstanding projects were not better known within the architectural community.

Through an amazing twist of fate shortly thereafter, I found myself working with Dan and a number of his colleagues. The office was a wonderfully creative atmosphere, and I remember it with fondness, as much for the people involved as for the fascinating way in which Dan’s projects came to fruition.

 

VG: And what was it like to work with him?

ML: Exhilarating. Inspiring. Frustrating. Humbling. Dan was a very quiet, gentle man. I think that those who worked for him, and with him, realized that they were operating in a completely different world of design, mostly anachronistic, completely unsustainable when you come to think of it. It’s remarkable that Dan was able to maintain a practice such as his for so long. For any project, he would generate hundreds of ideas. Some of the ideas were so unconventional at the residential scale (houses spanning deep gorges, suspended spherical rooms, hyperbolic paraboloid skylit roofs) that when first proposed, they seemed like conceits, sheer follies. But then, slowly, as the client’s program evolved and the siting, spatial and technical requirements became more known and considered, those poetic ideas transformed into practical, productive ones. Dan was immensely talented. And in a way not borne out by his daily studio behaviour (he actually did not draw so much as sketch relentlessly). He was extremely hard working. He was always dreaming. He never took a day off.

 

VG: What lessons do you think can be learned from his work?

ML: Anyone who has striven for simplicity and clarity in any discipline knows how difficult those are to achieve. Dan worked relentlessly, attempting to achieve a measure of perfection. He was rarely successful, but he persisted. He wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. He constructed space, spatial sequence, form. Complex space that rewarded full engagement.

GJ: Dan’s best work was executed when he engaged a broad range of participants with multidisciplinary backgrounds, each substantially contributing to the final artefact. This model, distinct from the antiquated myth of the sole creative genius, is the one most likely to produce outstanding architecture.

ML: What drove the formal language of Dan’s work was his insistence that everything was simple, geometrically consistent and carried through all levels of the architectural program. No other architect in this region successfully carried out that idea at such a scale, with such thoroughness and over such a long period of time. We find that compelling. There are certainly high and low points in the opus: the work is neither ‘perfect’ nor always resolved. But it is shown here, for the first time, for consideration. No one could say that they ‘know’ Dan’s work, because it just wasn’t ‘out there’ before now. In fact, the curatorial team is discovering something new every day.

GJ: Ideas from his 1963 thesis – such as a clear formal vocabulary or the mix of the monumental with the everyday – resonate in his final project 50 years later; that’s instructive.

ML: Our expectations of our buildings and environments are different now, implicated by a new awareness of energy conservation and vague notions of heritage and sustainability. You cannot, nor would you necessarily want to, replicate the buildings of the past 50 years. But you might be interested in what makes some of that architecture and landscape liveable, revered, cared for and loved. This is partly why we think Dan’s work will continue to resonate with the public of today and tomorrow.

Posted by: Viviane Gosselin on October 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Our curatorial team at the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) visited Daniel Evan White's studio after a tip-off from the City of Vancouver Archives, which was then acquiring the architectural drawings of the practice. We were quite taken by what we saw, and eventually acquired some of his models for our permanent collection. While doing research about his career, I came across an exhibition proposal produced several years earlier by Greg Johnson and Martin Lewis, two architects teaching at the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA), who had worked with Dan’s firm. The affinities between their curatorial aspirations and the mandate of MOV were obvious. Producing a collaborative exhibition with Greg and Martin would become an opportunity to investigate the city through the eyes and work of innovators like Dan White. The end product is Play House: The architecture of Daniel Evan White which will open at the MOV on October 17, 2013.

As we embarked on the planning and design phases of this exhibition project, the countless conversations I had with Greg and Martin often felt like intense question-and-answer sessions. I would query them, trying to grasp the essential traits of the man, his work and his contribution to the field of architecture. Some of my questions may have been surprising and even unsettling at the time, but their responses were always thoughtful and enlightening. The gist of our conversations is captured here. 

Viviane Gosselin (MOV Curator): Why do you think Daniel Evan White remained relatively unknown until recently – well after his career was over?

Martin Lewis (Guest Curator): Many of Dan’s mentors or contemporaries – Arthur Erickson, Ron Thom, Barry Downs – managed to complement their early private residential work with larger institutional commissions that afforded them greater public profiles. Others, such as Fred Hollingsworth and Bud Wood, were far more vocal and articulate about their own work. Dan had the respect of his professional peers but was never skilled at self-promotion. 

VG: Last year, there was a West Coast Modern film screening and public symposium in Vancouver but, curiously, not a mention of Dan White. Should he be considered part of that movement or not?

Greg Johnson (Guest Curator): We acknowledge that Dan never identified with a style or group per se, nor can his work be easily categorized. It’s often mistakenly characterized as simply architecture for the privileged. That is incorrect. He also designed modest houses, pre-fabricated cabins – everything from furniture and fixtures to new housing prototypes, public buildings and small communities.

VG: Given his formal education at the Vancouver School of Art, would you say Dan White considered himself an artist, an architect, or both?

ML: He said he became an architect because he ‘could not paint like those he admired’. He understood his limitations. Yet he certainly approached architecture with the sensibility of an artist. He was not pleased until he achieved ‘something that was truly beautiful’. So, he was quite willing to take everyone on a quest for the zenith. He was very interested in Greek mythology and pursued the ideals of intense dedication, passion and zeal (naming his business after the god Zelus, who represented those ideals). He was an idealist, a dreamer. Those are not necessarily the typical traits of a successful architect.

VG: Big question: Could you situate his work in local, regional, national and international contexts?

GJ: We view him as one of the most accomplished architects of his generation. His unique contribution to Canadian architecture will become more significant and revered as his work is publicized and understood as a genuinely original, West Coast response to site, climate and culture. Although the buildings reveal an iconic, almost sculptural presence from the exterior, their clear interior planning and the precise relationships of rooms to the immediate and distant landscape set them apart.

ML: He had an interest in the modernist tenets (Le Corbusier’s ‘5 Points of Architecture’; Mies van der Rohe’s ‘Less is More’) but never as dogma or formula. His work, although strongly geometric in plan and section, is much more subtly nuanced and human-scaled than would at first appear. He was quite sympathetic to the fusion of inside and outside, to the extent that those territorial boundaries are constantly blurred in his houses – air, water, light, landscape seem to flow effortlessly from one space to another...

VG: You both already had an intimate knowledge of his work, having been associates in his firm for several years. What new insights did you gain while researching and documenting his work?

ML: Architecture, like all disciplines, seems to have its own set of very strict rules and tendencies. Some would call them styles, others theoretical positions. We’re interested in the idea of critical practice, which attempts to posit larger issues through the true substance of architecture – which, some might argue, is building. Dan was clearly a practitioner. He was not a theorist. He communicated ideas through the act of building.

GJ: The truly humbling thing about looking at his 50 years of practice, as a coherent body of work, is just how difficult it must have been to execute. Dan quietly had a formal agenda in mind, perhaps not articulated initially, but certainly as he gained more experience and earned the confidence and trust of clients; he was able to assemble a coherent set of ideas, each project more subtly resolved than the previous one. It was as if he was working towards completing that set and saw in each commission an opportunity to add an additional piece to the suite.

ML: Absolutely. And in retrospect, it is the research process required for the exhibition that made us see the work in this light. It allowed us to type and categorize projects and document their formal similarities. Interestingly, there is a lineage that ties everything together, so to speak – private worlds that suddenly become public and more interesting because of their shared genealogy. We are certainly not historians, but as architects we now see the merit in constructing a career based on a few selective and focused interests.

GJ: The most rewarding part of this project has been meeting an extraordinarily wide range of people who, after having been in the residences for a significant amount of time, in some cases several decades, are now reflecting on how good architecture has changed their lives.

 

Stay tuned for more questions and answers from Viviane, Greg, and Martin!

Posted by: Charles Montgomery on October 7, 2013 at 3:55 pm

For one day in the summer of 2013, hundreds of people came together to re-invent a Vancouver street using giant blocks of recycled polystyrene. We built castles. We built walls. We built giant games and hallucinatory landscapes. Most of all, we worked and played together to transform the street into an ephemeral social machine. The day was the culmination of months of thinking, arguing, designing and dreaming by a team led largely by volunteers. We at MOV called the project Upcycled Urbanism.

For many urbanites, the landscapes we move through can feel finished, static and beyond our control. Upcycled Urbanism was initiated to empower students, artists, designers, makers, and anyone else who cared to become part of Vancouver’s evolving design culture by reimagining—and rebuilding—part of Vancouver’s public realm.

Working together, teams of participants designed and built prototypes using modular blocks of expanded polystyrene containing material salvaged from construction sites around the Lower Mainland by Mansonville Plastics.

First, students from the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) created prototypes of building blocks. Then, at a series of workshops in the spring, teams brainstormed, sketched, and modelled how to use these blocks for wild new public design ideas. They got plenty of help from design experts from partner organizations, which included SALA, the Vancouver Public Space Network and Spacing Magazine.

Then, on July 13, we hit Granville Street. There were dozens of volunteer builders, and nearly six hundred giant blocks to play with. Our team leaders thought it would be hard to convince the public  to join the build effort. Not so! Often led by their children, passers-by leapt into the design+build fray. Because the work was temporary, people took all kinds of chances with their design, using the I-beam and 3X3 blocks to make tables, pyramids, thrones, forts and surreal sculptures.

During the day, more than 1,500 people stopped to play, build, critique or take pictures. My favourite moment came during the heat of mid-afternoon. A fire alarm sounded in a nearby building, and dozens impromptu builders jumped into action, clearing the street of building blocks within seconds. It was a moment of destruction, but also of wonderful, organic teamwork by people, many of whom had begun the day as strangers. And it prepared us to start building all over again.

It all felt like play. In fact what we were doing was learning how to design and build together. We were testing the bubble-bursting potential of new forms. We were teaching ourselves not just styro-engineering, but new techniques for working together with strangers. And with every new structure, we claimed a little bit more ownership of the street. 

After all the building was done, volunteers packed the polystyrene into our rented cube truck and hauled it back to Mansonville Plastics, where it was ground down and used to make new building products. The cycle was complete.

Thank you to our amazing  partners and team leaders. Thank you to the members of the public who helped build a new street for a day. Thank you to the Vancouver Foundation, whose generous support helped get the project going. Thank you to MOV staff and volunteers. And thank you to Mansonville  Plastics, whose recycling efforts inspired us, and whose blocks helped turn our dreams into design.

Upcycled Urbanism was a Museum of Vancouver initiative in partnership with the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (SALA) at the University of British Columbia, the Vancouver Public Space Network, Maker Faire Vancouver, and Spacing Magazine, with generous additional support from SALA, Mansonville Plastics and the Vancouver Foundation.

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