Monday, March 28, 2011

Campeau in Alta Vista

One of the biggest builders in Ottawa during the 1950s and 1960s was Campeau Construction, a name still known today, even though the builder is no longer active. Many of the houses in Alta Vista were custom built, but Campeau was one of the first builders to construct tract homes in the area.
Approximate locations of areas where Campeau built
Beginning in the 1950s Campeau began building houses southwest of Kilborn Avenue and Alta Vista Drive, north of Randall Avenue. At the time, bungalows and one-and-a-half storey houses were most popular. Many of the “Victory Houses” built by Wartime Housing Ltd. for returning veterans after WWII were one-and-a-half stories, and the style soon became very popular for all builders. Below are some of Campeau's one-and-a-half storey plans built in the area:

With time, the one-and-a-half storey house became less popular, and bungalows and split-level houses became the norm. An easy way to determine the age of houses on a street in Alta Vista is to look at the style of the houses. If there are many one-and-a-half storey houses, the houses on the street were probably built in the early 1950s. Bungalows became very popular in the late 1950s and 1960s, and split level plans more popular in the mid-to-late 1960s. Below are some of Campeau's bungalow plans built in Alta Vista:

The CMHC, or Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (then called the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation), published a series of plan books from the late 1940s to the 1970s with houses suitable to be built in Canada. Many of Campeau’s early houses look to be built from these plans, or at least very much inspired by them.
Some of the early houses in Alta Vista built by Campeau have a very similar plan to this CMHC design.
The area northwest of Kilborn Avenue and Alta Vista Drive was developed as "Applewood Acres" by Campeau. While the majority of houses in the area were build by Campeau, there are some streets with custom built houses (many from CMHC plans), as well some custom designed houses built by Garand. According to a Campeau brochure from the late 1950s, 350 houses were built by the company in Applewood Acres.
A CMHC plan built in Applewood Acres

A custom built house in Applewood Acres
While the majority of houses in Alta Vista are detached, Campeau constructed one of the few pockets of semi-detached houses in Applewood Acres.

The least built type of houses in 1950s and 1960s were two storey models. I believe this has a lot to do with the whole idea of the suburban lifestyle, and having the luxury of land which allows for a sprawling house on one level. Two storey houses were more common in older areas like the Glebe, where lot sizes were generally narrower. So, even if technically the house wasn’t on a sprawling ranch property, having a bungalow at least eluded to idea of having a lot of land. That being said, Campeau built a few two-storey models, most based on the same basic plan, just differing in the sizes of the rooms:

Many of the Campeau plans built in Alta Vista and Applewood Acres were also built in Elmvale Acres, Queensway Terrace and Bel-Air Heights - often with slight variations.

By request, here is the B-5 plan:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The inner circle - MCM near downtown

A reader of the blog has asked if there are any Mid-Century Modern neighbourhoods close to downtown. While the largest neighbourhoods are in more suburban locations, there are a few smaller pockets closer to the urban core. Here is first in a series that looks at some of the MCM hot-spots close to downtown:
When one thinks of the Civic Hospital area, traditionally-styled houses from the 1920s-1940s immediately come to mind. But, there are a surprising number of houses that stand out from their Tudor-revival neighbours.  Along Sherwood Drive, near Carling Avenue, is a string of MCM houses:

The end of Larchwood Avenue, off of Sherwood Drive, is the location of these houses:

Other areas in the Civic Hospital neighbourhood include parts of Irving Place, and the Eastern end of Beech Street:
Beech Street

Just south of the Beechwood Cemetery in Vanier, is a pocket of MCM houses, many with stunning rooflines:
Dufford Street

Michel Circle

Michel Circle
Perrier Avenue
Perrier Avenue

Rideau Gardens, near Main Street and the Rideau River, has a few streets with MCM houses – some of them right on the waterfront:
Rideau Garden Drive
Rideau Garden Drive

Rideau Garden Drive

Rideau River Drive

Finally, there are individual MCM houses located in areas where the majority of the houses are more traditional:
Bronson Place - Old Ottawa South
Clegg Street - Ottawa East/Rideau Gardens

Monday, March 14, 2011

A comment by a reader about their house with a carport at the entry got me thinking about carports and Mid-Century Modern housing design. Today, carports have been replaced with full garages in new construction, but there was a time not so long ago when carports were very much in fashion.
Campeau, 1964, Playfair Park
Campeau, 1961-62, Queensway Terrace and Riverside Park

Assaly, 1963, Woodroffe on the Green

The carport as the entry point to a house made sense for a society, and a suburban way of life, that embraced the car as a mode of transport. Scores of suburban families even today still arrive and depart from home by car, and thus enter and exit their house via the door from the house to the garage. Designers in the mid-century foresaw this trend, and thus put the front door right next to where the car would be parked.
Campeau, 1962, Riverside Park and Graham Park
Campeau, 1962, Riverside Park and Graham Park
Campeau, 1961-62, Queensway Terrace and Riverside Park
Campeau, 1961-62, Queensway Terrace and Riverside Park
Campeau, 1962, Riverside Park and Graham Park
Campeau, 1961-62, Queensway Terrace and Riverside Park

The carport allows for a degree of protection, yet still allows for the car to be on display. With the amount of money spent on a car, why not show it off? The design of Case Study House #21 by Pierre Koenig, has a wall of glass in the dining room overlooking the carport. In this case, the car takes centre stage as the view from within the house.

Case Study House #21 B, 1958, West Hollywood, California
As an extension of the roofline, the carport is often an integral part of the design scheme. While today garages frequently look like an afterthought to the design, many MCM houses are actually enhanced by the carport.
Campeau, 1961-62, Queensway Terrace and Riverside Park

Campeau, Riverside Park South

Campeau, 1965, Playfair Park South

Assaly, 1963, Woodroffe on the Green

Campeau, 1965, Playfair Park South
In some cases, having an open carport versus a garage, still allows for windows opening on to it. With these townhouses, having an enclosed garage would not have allowed for main floor windows on the front of the house.
Assaly, Westcliffe Estates
With a burgeoning consumer culture, carports did not satisfy the need for storage. Drive down any suburban street today, and it is not unusual to see a garage so full of stuff that it can no longer fit a car.
Even though carports have fallen out of fashion, I much prefer their open design to the blank garages of snout houses so often found in newer neighbourhoods.
Snout houses in Brampton, Ontario

Friday, March 4, 2011

California Modern in Ottawa

During the mid-century era, California became the epicentre of modern design. From the architect-designed case-study houses, to the mundane tract house, all eyes were on California. In Canada, books and periodicals on architecture filled with Californian design would have sparked the imagination of Architects and designers.

When one thinks of Mid-Century Modern (MCM) California tract housing, the name ‘Eichler’ often comes to mind. Perhaps one of the most famous MCM tract builders, Joseph Eichler, defined MCM design in the United States. His widely-published designs even captured the imagination of Canadians. Any designer/architect in the know would have seen an Eichler plan.
In Ottawa, there are a few examples of houses built in the 1960s with floor plans that could have been influenced by those being built by Eichler. The most famous Eichler-built designs are those with an open-air atrium at the centre.

One of the floor plans built by Teron in Beaverbrook during the 1960s features what I consider to be the Canadian version of an Eichler atrium. In the Teron version, the atrium in the centre of the plan is enclosed as a family room, and making the space usable all year round (as opposed to an outdoor atrium like in the California Eichlers).

One of the most unique Eichler-built homes is the X-100 prototype steel house.


While the design was not reproduced in steel in Ottawa, Campeau built a series of houses that share a similarly-arranged plan. Although much simplified, and without the interior gardens, the Campeau versions have the same placement of the bedrooms at the front, a service core in the middle, and the living spaces spanning the rear of the plan. I quite like this Campeau plan as it is a departure from the usual ranch house design of the time.

This flat-roofed version of the same Campeau plan has the living and bedroom spaces reversed. The exterior design is strikingly modern, and almost Eichler-esque.

Eichler designs were also characterized by their blank facades and exposed rafter tails.

In 1960, this Teron design built in Glabar Park won a Canadian Housing Design Council award. The plan with its Dining/Family Room echoes the All-Purpose/Multi-Purpose rooms found in Eichler designs.

The exterior details are also reminiscent of Eichlers.
Below is another Teron house in the same area that has a very Eichler-esque exterior.

This elevation of the 1966 Campeau design is aptly named “California Contemporary”, clearly showing the source of the design inspiration.

These next examples are a little outside of the MCM period, but present a curious example of Californian design in Ottawa.
Around 1978, the California builder, Lusk, constructed a community of homes in Orange Country called Nohl Ranch. Below is the Bennington plan by Lusk.

Around the same time, Campeau started building the community of Hunt Club Woods. Below is the Bennington plan by Campeau.

Both builders also built a Clarendon model which is almost exactly the same. I am not sure if the plans were blatantly copied, or if they were bought from the designer. Either way, they represent a piece of Californian design found right here in Ottawa.