ARCHITECTURE | West Coast Modern :: Arthur Erickson ::: Dr William + Ruth Baldwin House, Burnaby, BC

Photos > GT


Last week I had the opportunity to visit a house designed in 1963 by one of my heroes, Arthur Erickson. This was the first Erickson residence that I’ve had the opportunity to view, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Overlooking Deer Lake in Burnaby, The Dr. William and Ruth Baldwin House was designated as the first modern heritage site in Burnaby in 2002. This beautiful piece of West Coast Modernism has been preserved for future generations thanks to the City of Burnaby and the amazing folk at The Land Conservancy. And you can rent it! (see Links).

Designed during the same era that Erickson and his then-partner Geoff Massey were busy not far away up on Burnaby Mountain designing Simon Fraser University, this house has aged amazingly well.

What impressed me about the house was its size. This is a graciously proportioned house designed before the advent of the Monster House.

The Baldwin House’s rooms are spacious but not grand. The kitchen, in particular, struck me as a beautifully designed space with incredible walls of windows overlooking tranquil Deer Lake and the North Shore mountains. Today’s kitchens, by way of contrast, are probably three times the size of this one. Rather than designing a huge kitchen, this space is connected with the living room via a sliding panel that can integrate the two spaces or isolate the mess in the kitchen when the panel is closed, a unique and simple solution to the space issue.

This is a two-level home, and the bottom, lakeside, floor is also an impressive space. Glass everywhere makes the essential West Coast Modern inside-outside tenet come alive in this house.

The Baldwin House is a good example of how Japanese elements found their way into what became known as West Coast Modern.

Erickson made his first visit to Japan in 1961 and the Baldwin House reflects his growing interest in Japanese aesthetics. For example, he employed traditional kusari doi [鎖樋]  (literally “chain gutters” or “rain chains”) instead of the ubiquitous and grotesque western gutter pipes. The house also sits on traditional Japanese footings instead of having a western-style foundation. Another Japanese element found here is a small reflecting pond that presumably once held some captive koi. Many of these Japanese elements would find their way into future Erickson buildings, and it was fantastic to see them in their early, prototypical stages in this house.

I need to make a return visit soon to finish documenting the house because, typically, our camera’s batteries died after having taken very few shots. But photos only tell part of the story: visit (or better yet, rent) the house and discover an interesting part of the history of West Coast Modernism for yourself.

TLC The Land Conservancy | Baldwin House

TLC The Land Conservancy | B.C. Binning Residence

Canada’s Historic Places | Baldwin House

State of Vancouver | Arthur Erickson 1924-2009 | Baldwin House

ouno | Rain chains or kusari doi

designKULTUR | ARCHITECTURE | LIFE FILE :: Arthur Erickson’s (Now Demolished) Graham House :: 12 April 1968

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