May 15, 2011

The Calgary Bungalow Project

A contest! With prizes!

Every city has a ubiquitous housing type, that defines a city's major period of growth. For some like San Francisco, it's the Victorian painted ladies, for others like Seattle, the Craftsman bungalow.

For Calgary, it is unequivocally the Postwar Bungalow.

The Calgary Bungalow Project is inspired by Vancouver Heritage Foundation's initiatives in the past few years to draw some positive attention to the often misunderstood and much maligned Vancouver Special. Built to maximize square footage of a lot, the Vancouver Special was the predominant housing type built between 1965 to 1985. Characterized by its boxy appearance, low pitched front gabled roof and full width balcony at the second storey, the VS's were built in response to an influx of new immigrants into the city. VS's are practical, many built with two separate suites on each floor.
Courtesy Ouno Design

When I was young, I pitied the fool that chose to live in one. Now? I covet. Many, in fact covet. They have become like collector's items that families buy, renovate and reinvent and modernize.

Calgary has its own misunderstood ubiquitous architectural gem: the Postwar Bungalow. According to Calgary architecture professor John Brown "we have bungalows - blocks and blocks and blocks of bungalows"* Indeed we do...

The prototypical one storey, four-room bungalow was introduced to the then small ranching town of Calgary in 1949, at the start of what was to become a monumental explosion of growth and prosperity in the city. As the administrative headquarters for oil and gas in the country, tracks of farmland quickly became dotted with tracks of suburban neighbourhoods filled with modern bungalows.

This broad home with low pitched roof lines and horizontal massing expressed the growing affluence of the city. The low building height also adapted well to Prairie life, with its searing cold winters and windy summers. So adaptable in fact, that the Postwar Bungalow was the dominant housing type built in the city well into the 1960s.

This brings us into the present day... I am still new to Calgary, but have driven through many neighbourhoods throughout the city and the fate of these bungalows seems to be unfolding in many areas as dozer bait for infills. Whole tracks of neighbourhoods have been replaced by these giant infills. While I have nothing against infills, I have a hard time believing that every single family in Calgary needs or wants to be in 4000 sq. ft. I certainly don't. I have a hard enough time keeping my 2000 sq ft clean, I can't even imagine wanting or needing twice that amount.

The Calgary Bungalow Project** was envisioned as a contest - a showcase - for homeowners who love their Postwar Bungalows and have decided to keep and live in this iconic home. This contest is for those of you who have taken on the challenge of living in a smaller space and creatively reinventing or modernizing the classical Postwar Bungalow. The outcome of the contest will feature a showcase on this blog of how average people are re-using their Postwar Bungalow's in Calgary. And you the reader will get to vote on the winner.

The rules are as follows:

1. Only one-storey Postwar Bungalow's are allowed to enter
2. Any architectural stylistic updates are acceptable (ie Craftsman elements added to bungalow) but the house must still look like a bungalow
3. The house must be within Calgary city limits

Please email photos (exterior only) of your house to me by Sunday, June 12th. I will post images of all of the houses and you the readers will vote on your favourite.

The winner will receive an awesome prize package courtesty of LMCMHP:
  • two tickets to the upcoming Brutal Bus Tour on June 26, 2011, sponsored by CHI and Calgary Architecture and Urban Studies Alliance (CAUSA) (a guided bus tour of Calgary's premiere Brutalist sites)
  • $50 gift certificate from the kind people at People Food (who has the best organic meats (and prices) and gluten-free goodies in town)

Please email images of your house to by Sunday, June 12th.

I will post the entries the following week.

Some inspiration from fellow MCM bloggers:

ps. I have come across a few in my drive abouts so don't be surprised if I knock on your door and ask you to enter.

* In Robert Stamp's Suburban Modern: Postwar Dreams in Calgary
** Avenue Magazine currently featured a Calgary Bungalow challenge for architects and designers in their May 1, 2011 issue. How serendipitous...


Heather said...

I love bungalows and I love history lessons--great post. :)

Anonymous said...

Infills ARE evil, for at least four reasons:

*They shade adjacent yards, severely impacting backyard gardens.

*Plopping duplex infills into a single lot saddles local tax and rate-payers with costs for new water, sewer, sidewalk and repaired roadwork. Developers do NOT cover these costs--something that the Plan-It supporters, like Naheed Nenshi and Druh Farrell, don't like to talk about.

*Like other new constructions, these chipboard specials are severely vulnerable to fire, and their increased proximity to other homes poses a serious fire risk. There is a good reason for those wide, 'old-fashioned' lots, but developers have been ignoring the warnings of fire departments and peddling the 'density' snake oil, in a bid to maximize profits.

*Some developers simply ignore requirements for development and building permits, and go right ahead and build their monstrosities, ignoring all the 'red tape.' Infill-builder Knightsbridge Homes is one firm that's particularilly guilty of this, and has just been caught building without permits by City officials on the 'University City' project.

My advice is to fight infilling or other 'densification' of established neighborhoods tooth and nail. And report any work that's being done without prior announcements, or posted permits:


Anonymous said...

The funny thing is, if you drive around the country in Hungary, you see these same exact postwar bungalows everywhere. The early ones are mainly one storey, the ones built in the late 70s early 80s are more 2 storey houses. Even the fences have the same exact design.

Laura said...

That is so interesting! I suspect that many of the designs are from plan books. I wonder if many of the designs or inspirations for design are from Europe? Would you have any photos to share?

Unknown said...

Nothing like show homes calgary! Even if there is similar ones in other places!

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