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Museum of Vancouver opens a retrospective on Daniel White

Daniel Evan White

(courtesy of MOV)

Museum of Vancouver
’s hip, Vancouver-focused exhibits aim to create provocative conversations about the city. This aim makes it the perfect space for a rare retrospective of the work of one of Vancouver’s most remarkable architects, who had a significant impact on the city’s urban landscape.

“Play House: The Architecture of Daniel Evan White”, the museum’s newest exhibit, features the residential work of Daniel White, esteemed Vancouver-based architect. Many Vancouverites may not be aware of White, as he was notoriously publicity-shy. From 1960 to 2010, White quietly broke boundaries and gained acclaim for designing sophisticated, modernist homes on some of Metro Vancouver’s most rugged terrain.


Daniel Evan White - Smith Residence

Smith residence (courtesy MOV)

The exhibition engages visitors with White’s projects through stories from clients and contractors, as well as projections, topographic models, a replica of the famed Máté House grandly built to a 1-to-4 scale, and an interactive area where visitors can explore some of White’s favourite geometric shapes.

“Play House” invites you to explore Vancouver through the eyes of White, who excelled at integrating visionary residential projects into seemingly impossible landscapes.

“Dan’s work not so much fits its site as becomes one with it. His clever architectural innovations allowed his buildings to match their dramatic West Coast sites.” — co-curator Greg Johnson.


Topographical 'Taylor Residence' model. [Laura Taylor]

Topographical ‘Taylor Residence’ model. ( photo by Laura Taylor)

 One of the most unconventional West Coast properties modelled in the exhibit is the Taylor Residence, in which a narrow, glass and concrete house appears to hover in midair above a river gully which plunges over a cliff into the ocean below.

The house is supported by thin, concrete columns and anchored at either end to a sheer rock face. The building’s location over a small river creates a deceptive scale and sense of play. This stunning property highlights White’s risk-taking style that does not shy away from complex topography and celebrates the beauty of the West Coast wilderness through design.


Plans and model of the unusual 'Connell Cabin'. [Laura Taylor]

Plans and model of the unusual ‘Connell Cabin’. (photo by Laura Taylor)

The exhibition refreshes our ideas of the function and form of a typical house, as each of White’s featured project is a commentary on contemporary culture and innovative design. The exhibit asks the viewer to explore the homes by considering Vancouver’s sprawl, diversity and natural beauty.

In his 2012 eulogy to White, friend Bruce Fraser said, “I had the impression of being in the presence a man who … made a house speak the way a Dylan Thomas poem makes a grown man weep or a Lawren Harris clean line painting evokes the grandeur of Canada.”

This is what brilliant architecture should achieve, and through the exhibit’s stories of the life changing effect of his designs, it is apparent that White does just that.

MOV is once again introducing the City to one of its remarkable innovators. Despite perhaps not knowing his name before, you may recognize his arresting work around Vancouver; and if you do not, that will definitely change after visiting “Play House”.

“Play House: The Architecture of Daniel Evan White” is on at the Museum of Vancouver until March 23, 2014