Dr. William and Ruth Baldwin House
Links and documents
1963/01/01 to 1965/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Baldwin House is a two storey modern post and beam structure, located on the southern shore of Deer Lake in Burnaby. The site is steeply sloped, and the main entrance of the house is at the top of the slope facing onto Deer Lake Drive. The historic place includes the building and grounds.
The Baldwin House is valued as a prime example of Burnaby's post Second World War modern heritage and progressive architectural style, as well as for its personal connections to internationally acclaimed architect, Arthur Erickson.
Inspired by the modern domestic idiom established earlier in the twentieth century by Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra, Erickson conceived his architecture as responding directly to the site. A cohesive expression of simple orthogonal lines and ultimate transparency, this structure reduces the idea of post and beam west coast modernism to its most refined elements. A fine example of the evolving talent of Erickson's earlier work, this house is a landmark modern house in Burnaby and is unique in terms of siting and context.
Having just won the 1963 competition for the new Simon Fraser University in Burnaby with his partner, Geoff Massey, and having built fewer than half a dozen homes previously, Erickson's reputation was growing and his skill as a designer of modern buildings was in great demand. The same year that Erickson/Massey Architects designed SFU, Dr. William Baldwin and his wife, Ruth, personal friends of Erickson, commissioned him to design this house. Erickson was already familiar with the site; as a child he had spent time at this spot when his family visited friends who lived on Deer Lake. Both the Baldwin House and the university were completed in 1965. SFU became internationally famous; the Baldwin House was also considered an architectural success and was recognized in publications of the time.
Only a single storey of this two storey house is visible from the road, as it is built into the hillside in response to its steep site and proximity to Deer Lake. Like many other Erickson designs, this structure was conceived as a pavilion. Constructed of glass and wood, its transparency facilitates visual access to the lake's edge, acting as an invitation, rather than a barrier, to the landscape. The house blends into the natural surroundings and the site includes other man-made landscape features such as a reflecting pool. As a reaction to the often grey quality of light in the region, Erickson exploits flat planes of water as a source of borrowed light.
The refined and purposeful design, transparency, openness of plan and adjacency to the lake combine to give the house a floating appearance at the water's edge. The concept of a floating house set within an accompanying garden was inspired, in part, by the palaces and house boats of Dal Lake in Kashmir and the famed nearby Mughal Gardens. Although Erickson never visited Dal Lake, he travelled extensively throughout India, and specifically mentions the Kashmir reference in relation to this house. There is a rich complexity of other allusions worked into the fabric of the house, unified by a feeling for the conjunction of light, water and land at this special location.
Widely renowned as Canada's most brilliant modern architect, Erickson's reputation is important to the development and growth of modern architecture in Canada and North America.
Source: Heritage Site Files: PC77000 20. City of Burnaby Planning and Building Department
The elements of the Baldwin house that define its character are those materials and details which respond to the location of the building and determine the relation between landscape and building, combining to create a single cohesive site. These include its:
- close proximity to water
- orthogonal plan and massing, with flat tar and gravel roof
- stepped down massing orienting the house towards the water
- post and beam construction, with the width of the beams matched to the width of the posts
- wood and glass used as primary building materials
- transparency and light achieved by the abundant use of glass
- large undivided sheets of single glazing
- butt glazed glass corners
- abundant and generous balconies, which blur the transition from interior to exterior
- horizontal flush cedar siding
- use of salvaged brick for chimneys
- use of chains as downspouts
- built in rooftop barbeque
- built in furniture and fittings dating to the time of construction, such as original hardware, benches, bathroom vanities and kitchen cabinets
- landscaped site including reflecting pool, plantings and a dock protruding into the lake
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Single Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Site Files: PC77000 20. City of Burnaby Planning and Building Department, 4949 Canada Way, Burnaby, B.C., V5G 1M2.
See also: Canadian Architectural Archives, University of Calgary, Collection: Original Plans No. ERI 4A/76.13
Cross-Reference to Collection