People either love or hate this Point Grey home
Point Grey home
CHERYL CHAN reports on the most talked about construction project on Vancouver’s west side
On a coveted corner of Vancouver’s Golden Mile, one man’s modern masterpiece is another man’s modern monstrosity.
The house at 3691 Point Grey Road is still under construction, but it’s already the talk of the neighbourhood, drawing curious gazes and aghast criticism, including a tongue-in-cheek nomination on a local blog for “Vancouver’s Most Hideous Urban Design for 2016.”
From the exterior, the 2,280-square-foot two-storey house is a cube of galvanized steel atop a glassed-in ground floor area. Cut into the steel are modest-sized windows on the north, west and east facades, providing views of Hastings Mill Park and Jericho Beach — but not on the south side facing Point Grey Road, which has prompted comparisons by online commenters to a “concrete bunker,” a “box with a skirt,” and an “abomination.”
“Not a fan,” said Sarah Baldwin, who was walking her dog in the neighbourhood on Wednesday. “It’s an eyesore.”
A neighbour who lives across the street was befuddled by the design.
“Where are the windows?” she asked. “Is that black the end result or are they going to stick something on the front?”
Some people, however, say the house fits the context of nearby houses with their gates and privacy hedges on a street described as Vancouver’s most exclusive driveway.
Historian Michael Kluckner described the house as “unneighbourly” but par for the course — the ultimate expression of our society’s evolution from a front-porch culture to a courtyard culture.
A century ago, Vancouver houses looked outward, their windows as eyes on the street with front porches that allowed for interaction with neighbours, said Kluckner. But throughout the decades, “there was a turning inward that has accelerated.”
Modern homes now usually present “an almost blank face on the street,” with drawn windows and an expansion of the backyard as a private recreational space. “You realize how much the design of a house … has the ability to connect with people and how much of that has disappeared,” he said.
Former city councillor and urban planner Gordon Price, who posted an emailed discussion on the eye-catching house on his blog, said the house is polarizing. “It’s one of those things where no one has a middle opinion. You love it or you hate it.”
Architect Tony Robins said he wanted to create something iconic on that high-profile corner. He’s heard the criticism but said they’re outnumbered by praise from people who like the design.
“It’s a very pure building,” he said, adding there are windows in both bedrooms and a skylight that pours plenty of light into the interior.
He disputes the house is turning its back on the street, pointing out it has more glazing facing Point Grey Road than any of the other houses. As for the windowless south-facing second floor?
“It’s a moot point,” he said. “I wonder how often it is people look up and see people upstairs.”
The issue, he believes, is that the house goes against preconceptions of what a house should look like.
“It’s important to have something fresh,” he said. “We have to be leading edge. We can’t be ‘fake’ anything.”
Price, who is withholding judgment on the house until it is finished, said it boils down to a matter of taste. “It’s a statement. You don’t want it everywhere. But you want it somewhere.”