More and more, it seems, new construction has Mid Century Modern enthusiasts collectively mourning the loss of their favorite vintage buildings. While increasing density continues to threaten many of these structures, there’s one neighborhood in West Vancouver, Canada that boasts apartments that take cues from Miami Modernism. The neighborhood is notable not only for its architecture but also for preserving it as long as it has.
In 1959, when Metro Vancouver was enjoying its post-war boom years, 50 acres in the Ambleside and Hollyburn communities of West Vancouver were rezoned for apartment buildings, so it’s heartening to report that this area—specifically the waterfront blocks of Bellevue and Argyle Avenues near 22nd Street—still boasts nearly all of the Midcentury Modern buildings that were erected at that time … for now.
Miami Modernism in Vancouver: A Pastel Paradise
Some of the neighborhood’s sleek residential concrete properties hark back to the days of Miami Modernism, towering next to the ocean with pastel-colored edifices and stylish-looking balconies, part of a movement known as New Sensualism.
The Crescent, named for its distinctive curved profile, was the area’s first condominium tower, and the very first in all of West Vancouver. Designed and built by Kenneth Gardner and Warnett Kennedy in 1961, the 10-story building is topped with a series of playful “spider legs” and features repurposed terra-cotta drainage tile on every floor, which doubles as a breeze-block brise soleil for its south-facing floor-to-ceiling windows.
The boom years continued through the 1960s, and several of the area’s towers built during that decade are now considered to be some of Metro Vancouver’s most sought-after accommodations.
An Unfortunate Ending
Sadly, two of the West Vancouver neighborhood’s Miami-style Modernism standouts have been slated for redevelopment in the coming years: the circular, turquoise-colored Shoreland Apartments designed by G. Leach Consulting in 1963—said to have been inspired by a Hawaiian vacation taken by its architect—and the iconic Villa Maris apartments, built in 1965 and affectionately known to locals as the “Pink Palace.”
While the demolition of mid century properties has been de rigueur of late—and the potential loss of these buildings would be a tragedy for sure—it’s gratifying to know that communities like this one are hanging on, with one foot still planted firmly in the past.
For more on Mid Century Modern in Vancouver, see “A Modern Condo In Vancouver Gets A West Coast Mod Makeover.”
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Ken MacIntyre is the creator and curator of Modtraveler.net, an Enthusiast’s Guide to Modernism. For more photos and stories of modernist destinations, visit his website or follow Ken on Instagram @modtraveler.