The story of B.C. Binning and his house is featured in Sensational Vancouver.
It’s no secret that The Land Conservancy of B.C. has been in financial trouble for some time, and that’s a real problem for heritage because the organization looks after some properties that are of huge cultural significance to Canadians.
Many of these houses sit on large, beautiful pieces of property in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island and can potentially earn millions of dollars for developers.
Of immediate concern is the B.C. Binning house in West Vancouver.
A potential buyer that the papers call a “prominent Lower Mainland developer and a major collector of Binning’s work” has offered $1.6 million for the property. A court will decide on November 18 whether this is a good thing, but it’s hard to imagine that the “developer” will be able to resist developing the property—maybe keeping the house as an adjunct.
This decision is important, because it’s not only the B.C. Binning house that’s endangered by a bad ruling, it’s the long list of properties entrusted to The Land Conservancy. As Adele Weder points out in the North Shore News why would anyone donate their heritage property to TLC if they can then just turn around and sell it?
Most people know BC Binning as an artist, but both his grandfathers were architects and throughout his career, he always maintained that the discipline of architecture, its dependence on a strong sense of organization and structure, informed his approach to drawing, painting and mural design. He studied under Frederick Varley at the Vancouver School of Art (the forerunner to Emily Carr University of Art + Design) and later as an instructor he taught and influenced some of the most important architects of last century including Arthur Erickson, Ron Thom and Fred Hollingsworth. Erickson said: “He taught me the beauty of the less detail, the better,” after taking a drawing course from Binning. Ron Thom said that Binning was one of the most important influences in his life.
When Binning designed the house for $5,000 in 1939, it kick started the West Coast Modern movement in Vancouver, and helped change the way Canadians thought of design.
It’s an amazing place, mostly because of its simplicity. Binning sought out cedar and other local materials and topped off the house with a flat roof. He merged architectural features with art—a series of large colourful murals painted onto the walls of his house.
Binning died in 1976 and his wife Jessie lived in the house until her death in 2007 at 101. She left her house in what she thought was the safe hands of the TLC.
I just hope the legal system doesn’t let her down.
For a full listing of properties managed by the The Land Conservancy see TLC
© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.