Before you travel, you naturally consult someone who’s been there, especially if he or she shares your taste. It’s not just what you want to visit but how to get there, what’s around, where to stay. Well, modernists, we’ve found your guy! Vancouver-based writer and photographer Ken MacIntyre’s site Modtraveler.net offers fellow retronauts a choose-your-own-travel-adventure with pictures, information and maps of Vancouver, Honolulu, Las Vegas and Palm Springs.
“It’s an opportunity for me to share insights and information with like-minded modernists that’s not readily available as a single source anywhere else,” Ken says. “I hope this site can serve as a roadmap for others to create their fun retro adventures.”
We thought you’d enjoy his travel expertise as well—and what better place to start than his own “fair city”? A proud resident of Vancouver, he is our hometown tour guide for a sampling of the city’s midcentury stunners. Our first stop is Simon Fraser University, just east of Vancouver in Burnaby. Here is Ken, your Modtraveler tour guide to tell you the rest:
An Alien Acropolis
A series of low lying, linear, Brutalist structures so well integrated into their surroundings atop Burnaby Mountain that one might think they were placed there centuries ago by an alien race (or by a Hollywood set designer), Simon Fraser University is quite a sight…and quite a site!
At once ancient and futuristic, the campus plan was designed by noted architects Arthur Erickson (who envisioned it as a modern day Acropolis) and Geoffrey Massey, the unanimous winners of an architectural competition held by the provincial government, and awarded the Massey Medal for architectural excellence shortly after its completion in 1965.
Precast and poured concrete unify the structures and grounds as a whole, while each campus building has its own unique design concept… and its own architect; the iconic Academic Quadrangle by Zoltan S. Kiss; the WAC Bennett Library by Robert F. Harrison; the SFU Theatre by Duncan McNab; and the glass-covered Convocation Mall by Erickson & Massey, among others.
SFU’s Burnaby Mountain campus has expanded since the 1960s, adding several new buildings and renovating old ones, but the original Erickson/Massey plan is timeless and definitely a must-see for any discerning modernist, especially if you’re into Brutalism.
SFU is about a 30 minute drive from downtown Vancouver, depending on traffic. For an interactive campus map and directions when visiting, click here.
Ken MacIntyre is the author of the acclaimed book Reel Vancouver: An Insider’s Guide to Hollywood North, which was recommended by Lonely Planet in 2012 as the “definitive guide to screen culture in the city.” For more photos and stories of modernist destinations, check out Modtraveler.net or following Ken on Instagram @modtraveler.