Despite a trend of homes in the West Coast Modern style being sold for their architectural significance, many of these structures continue to list solely for the land they were built on.
“Builder alert!” reads the listing description by LeHomes Realty Premier for the property at 5791 Telegraph Trail in West Vancouver, selling for $1.99 million. The description mentions the land’s proximity to Gleneagles Community Centre, golf course and school, while encouraging the prospective buyer to “build your dream home.”
But nowhere is it mentioned that the home was designed, and lived in, by Robert Hassell. He built the house for himself in 1966 as a student at UBC School of Architecture, explains Steve Gairns, a practising architect and chair of the West Coast Modern League.
“The home is important not only for having been the designer’s personal residence, but because it is credited as a prototype of sorts for the body of work that would follow from Hassell himself, as well as projects undertaken in partnership with Barry Griblin, whom he started working with in 1968 (Hassell/Griblin),” Gairns said by email.
Along the spectrum of forms that make up the West Coast Modern style, Hassell House is known as an example of “mineshaft modern,” which employs features that reference B.C.’s mining history, and epitomized the work of Hassell/Griblin.
“Their cedar-clad timber frame designs explored a particular verticality, stepping up terrain that was often considered unbuildable, that created uniquely dynamic living spaces and relationships to their landscapes,” Gairns said, adding that the architect pair’s designs are some of the region’s most definitively west coast houses, including Hassell House.
While the home is in need of care in its current condition, Gairns said the house deserves recognition for its place in the story of West Coast Modernism. Hassell House came before others like the McIntyre House, which was a recent subject in the UBC SALA West Coast Modern House Series, as well as 3891 Bayridge Ave. in West Vancouver that was recently listed and sold.
“The fact that this home has been listed as having development potential, without any acknowledgement of its history and place in the evolution of West Coast Modernism, goes to show the disconnect that we continue to struggle with across the region and the insufficiency of our current heritage regulations,” Gairns said.