Gladys We starts what could obviously be an ongoing series:
I was looking at the front facade of this huge house in Richmond, and all I could focus on were the pillars.
Pillars (Large)
At the front door — some kind of square Ionic column. And upstairs on the deck, something that came from Serpentine Bridge, Hyde Park, London. So, Greece to England, plus or minus a few centuries and miles, separated by 15 feet of wall.
PillarsI’m also not an expert in city planning, but isn’t someone at City Hall supposed to review those kinds of details?
Or was Fantasy Gardens something that was a harbinger of the future as far as Richmond is concerned?


  1. I’m intrigued. What exactly was the planning department supposed to say if they looked at those details? Too European? (There go the Tudors, the French Provincials, the Norman cottages). Too big? (There goes Shaughnessy). Too tacky? (There goes most of the housing stock right there in one sweep.) As my father was fond of saying (he was the director of a large public art gallery so you’d expect him to be kind of snooty but he wasn’t): “à chacun son goo”– to each his own taste (the modification of “gout” to “goo” was his contribution.)
    In most of North America there are very limited controls over the design of single detached housing. The principle is “a man’s home is his castle” and zoning bylaws are largely constrained to definitions of use and size, not design, except where some secondary form of control has been applied such as a land use contract, building scheme or heritage covenant. Those aren’t common because they are extraordinarily expensive for municipal governments to administer.

    1. I don’t find anything wrong with this place at all. And the right of someone who wants their house designed the way they like is more important than someone else’s tastes. If we wanted an oppressive state where busy bodies force us to make something we don’t like we would just move into a strata.

  2. I don’t like it either but clearly somebody does. At least it looks better than some of the 1980s and 90s houses.

  3. The words “Richmond” and “architecture” really don’t belong in the same sentence. This is what happens when you get spec builders working for people with no taste.

    1. Thats the thing … I wonder if anyone truly likes this (responding also to anonymous above) or whether by combining enough symbols of prosperousness and success and conspicuous consumption, you arrive at something which appeals because it ‘should’ appeal … like the ‘Emperor’s newly clothed house’ … no-one will say they don’t like it because that would be also denying the symbols that HGTV says they should want (granite, stainless, columns, etc). As with McMansion Hell, the presence of these symbols is more important than the substance by which they appear, so it would seem like the actual house matters less than the mental checklist which allows the announcement of ‘I have arrived, I am successful’ above all else.

  4. Probably not a development permit area, so the municipality will not get involved in those types of design details. If it meets the zoning, it’s good to go.
    It’s all up to the taste (or lack thereof) of the property owner.

  5. I’m fascinated and appalled by this instinct to have government involved in every facet of our lives, regulating even trial aesthetic decisions on private property.

  6. If it’s not your style of house, you don’t need to buy it.
    If you want to live in a “perfect” community of similar houses that blend harmoniously together, then buy in a neighbourhood subdivision that has restrictive covenants on each property restricting the built form, landscaping, and paint colour – over and beyond any municipal requirements.
    There are many such subdivisions, such as Morgan Creek in Surrey.

  7. Wow, what a completely insane reaction to someone’s choice of house design. Why would we not want to allow people to express themselves however they like? Isn’t that how great art (and iconic buildings) get created? Of course you’re going to get ugly too (and, really, whether that place is ugly or not is entirely a matter of taste).
    Would we all rather have a sterile environment where everything looks the same? Where no-one is allowed to express themselves? I guess the problem in Vancouver is too many people with too much time on their hands and not enough real issues to concern themselves with.

  8. Vancouver is often described as a beautiful city. But the city is actually mostly pretty ugly. Haphazard, bland, jarring, poorly designed, poorly executed, cheap, fake and lacking in taste. But what can be done about it? It’s a reflection of the people and the all-too-common greed that suffocates the public realm for the desire to own the fashion of the moment.

  9. Form over function. Again.
    These are not columns because they don’t hold anything up. Perhaps one can tune them and play them like oversized percussion instruments. At least then they will have a purpose.

  10. There are a plethora of these curious constructions in Richmond – the better ones have an L shape that incorporate the garage and create a half-courtyard – it’s the new standard. If the buyers of these spec houses had a say in the matter, they’d want a full courtyard with a 6′ wall – a wall – not a fence. So would I. China has a courtyard culture and pretty much everyone here is Chinese.
    In this location your only view is that of your neighbors. Blech. The great Arthur Erickson built huge berms topped with overheight fencing for privacy at his West Side property.
    The location is sub prime because it’s so close to #2 Road – noise is a factor that would be mitigated by a wall; and because car headlights rake the house as they turn the corner – bad feng shui. Land here is selling for around $200/sq/ft – cheap by Vancouver standards. But you don’t get a lane, and your sitting on river sediment.
    Yes, the house is typical in that it has architectural gew gaws taken from different styles, but it’s pretty restrained compared to many others. The balustrade over the garage is inoffensive – the deck might even get used – unlike the silly balconies of the 70’s Van Specs.
    I’d take issue with the somewhat complicated roof – all those heavy concrete tiles supported by trusses made with farmed lumber. As this cheap wood ages, shrinks and expands with moisture, I’d worry about the whole thing collapsing – even without the long-anticipated earthquake.
    What I do bemoan is the lack of bay windows. Bay windows are gold and almost nobody builds them – it’s all stick a big flat piece of glass into a rough opening. Caulk it in. Dismal. Bay windows open up a house in a way that no idiotic “open concept” ever will.
    I do hate the double height entries of these houses – pretentious, useless, and unpleasant – not homey.

      1. It is S/P/F; it is farmed. It is spongy wooly fragile wood. Nobody uses old growth to build trusses and it’s a stretch to call these bits of wood attached with metal plates lumber. Virtually no one stick-builds roofs with lumber.

        1. The SPF lumber may be from second growth forests and not old growth. That doesn’t make it ‘farmed’, or necessarily spongy or fragile. SPF MSR lumber is rated for specific structural performance.
          If you think only old growth wood is good for building houses and roof structures, much the world would have long run out of wood for construction.
          Can’t say what it used in this particular house or how the roof is built, but any problem with roof weight would be up to the design, not ‘spongy’ wood. In much of Europe concrete tiled roofs are supported by wooden trusses.

    1. What, eco-justice warrior Arnie praising the horrendous “garage first” design of those hideous Richmond L houses (more like hell houses)? A front yard totally paved to devote more space for the car, at least one per house occupant, no matter if they;re only part time residents. Coupled with a backyard just big enough to swing a cat in, double height entries, they’re the worst design of almost any municipality in Metro Vancouver.

      1. When there is no lane, as in this case, and you want a garage, you have two choices: put it under the house – aka the snout house, or put it into an L, which creates a half-courtyard. The latter is much more desirable.
        In terms of worst design, it’s a toss-up between the mini mutant laneways and the two basement sardine suites of the latest iteration of Van Specs.
        The mini mutants remind me of trailers that have “cathedral ceilings”.
        Van Spec sardine suites are dismal – with views of the bottom of a fence, or your landlord’s feet – no sunshine.
        At least Richmond houses are, of necessity, above ground.

  11. OSB is also rated for specific structural performance – under perfect factory conditions. It even passes code for townhouses. How many builders do you see using it – even though it’s way cheaper than plywood? Very few. Once those sheets of glue hit the real wet world let the fun and delamination begin.
    Lumber is rated for a specific moisture content. Then it hits the building site and gets soaked. How many buildings have you seen built under a full scaffolding and tarps?
    How much confidence is one to have in these designed buildings, esp. in a province notorious for the leaky condo crisis – a life-destroying debacle that’s been called the second biggest human-caused financial catastrophe after the bombing of Hiroshima.
    A truss is stronger, lighter, cheaper than stick-built. It also exhibits the phenomenon known as truss uplift where the bottom chord arches and shrinks yearly because of differentials in temperature and humidity. Supposedly this does not affect its structural integrity. What about 10-20-30 years from now. Having tons of concrete tile above your head, in an earthquake zone; with the potential of a tsunami; with an aging concrete tile roof, is scary.
    Mike Holmes prefers metal. It’s highly recyclable, and it’s not going to crush you in your sleep.

    1. Whether it’s steel or wood, both have to perform to the same structural standard.
      Whichever building material is used, including concrete, builders may do shoddy work without proper training, inspections and enforcement.

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