Modernist apartment building #1

815 Chilco Street, Vancouver, 1970

815 Chilco Street, Vancouver, 1970

815 Chilco Street, Vancouver, 1970

This series is about a style of architecture that repelled me when I was growing up but that I now find strangely attractive. These examples of brutalist modernism are all from Vancouver, but there are equivalents all over North America. The brutalist hand-etched steel front door of this building is a classic in this style. I’ve always found it odd that concrete brutalism tends to be accompanied by this sort of medieval or Middle Earth/Lord of the Rings decorative treatment on metal (and in furniture), but it works. Is it concrete harking back to stone, or what exactly? 815 Chilco Street, built in 1970, was designed by Vancouver’s “father of modern architecture,” Charles Burwell Kerrins van Norman (1907-1975).

The building of modernist lo-rise condos and apartments in the 70s was part of a deliberate move on the part of the city’s planning department to do away with a certain type of groovy downtown living in funky, sometimes decrepit (but affordable) Victorian and Edwardian houses. Read about the politics of this history in curator Scott Watson’s Urban Renewal: Ghost Traps, Collage, Condos and Squats. Despite the politics of their introduction into Vancouver, these buildings have the virtue of being solid and livable, and they’re now prized. This building, which sits right next to the large and beautiful Stanley Park, is particularly pricey these days. See the next post for another fantastic building, right next door at 845 Chilco Street. Vancouver, let’s not knock down any more 60s and 70s architecture.

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5 Responses to “Modernist apartment building #1”

  1. Foster Grant Says:

    I’ve always loved this one and the one next door to it. Apparently each floor is an entire unit. Been waiting for Wallpaper mag to feature these West Coast gems.

  2. LB Says:

    That’s funny; I just wrote about that building next door as well – Lost Lagoon Terrace at 845 Chilco. It’s the one with one suite per floor, and James Bond/New York features like private keyed-entry elevators. I’m surprised these haven’t even been covered in local magazines, as far as I know; at least not lately. They’re great.

  3. Sandi V. Says:

    Wow, I love brutalist buildings and this one has all the bells and whistles. The door and the balcony details are fantastic.

  4. Peg Steley Says:

    Hi – I am fortunate to live in this building and it is as wonderful on the inside as well as the outside. I was interested to learn about “brutalist modernism”. The door by the way is by Vancouver artist Lutz Haufschild and there is also a very large ‘brutalist’ glass and concrete wall in the lobby (also by Hafschild) that looks like Art from the Flintstones era.
    Cheers, Peg

  5. LB Says:

    Hi Peg,
    Interesting! If you have any photos I could post here, either of the wall in the lobby or anything else, please send them and I’ll post them! I’m sure people would be interested.

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