Modern City: The Legacy of Architectural Modernism in Victoria (1945-1970)

Modern City: The Legacy of Architectural Modernism in Victoria (1945-1970)

1948-1970 were boom years for Victoria, not equalled until the most recent decade. The Province’s resource-based economy expanded rapidly, followed by investments in jobs and infrastructure.

Over this short period Victoria changed as its rural hinterland gave way to suburbia, Victorian and Edwardian neighbourhoods sprouted high-rise towers and multi-storey walk-ups, and plate-glass replaced terra-cotta. New high-rise densities in the urban core prompted a rethinking of urban space, the public and private realms, institutional and commercial uses. Built form drew on social psychology for innovative approaches to handling light and space.

In this context a fresh appreciation for the City’s Victorian and Edwardian heritage prompted a serious conservation ethic. A new generation of architects and designers, many recently graduates of architecture schools in England, France, the United States, and Canada, reinvigorated the profession. They ushered in the bold abstract forms of the modern “International Style” and together developed what we now call “West Coast Modernism”. Urban modernism emerged in marked contrast to the City’s traditional fabric. A spirit of unrivaled optimism prevailed.

At the core of Modernism are rationalist design principles. Espoused by architectural thinkers, ranging from the Franco-Swiss theorist Le Corbusier to the American prolific writer and designer Frank Lloyd Wright, the fundamental precepts included: functional planning, revealing structural systems, an aesthetic based on abstract expressionist principles such as cubism, the authentic expression of materials, and rational relationships to place and urban space.

This exhibition explores these principles as imbedded in Victoria’s mid-century legacy of Modernist buildings.

Hosted by Jawl Properties Limited.
In collaboration with D’Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism.
Curated by Martin Segger.
Special Thanks to City of Victoria Archives, Saanich Municipal Archives and University of Victoria Libraries Special Collections.
Contemporary photos by John Taylor, Sama Jim Canzian and Sandy Beaman.

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Cite: "Modern City: The Legacy of Architectural Modernism in Victoria (1945-1970)" 15 Jul 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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