GUEST BLOG/By the University of Victoria--The
Late 19th century experienced a movement in architectural styles against
traditional high Victorian architecture to one that "advocated
vernacular expression, the' honest' and natural use of materials and fine
craftsmanship instead of mass produced parts," says Alistar Kerr,
architectural historian. The Arts and Crafts Movement, which this became
to be known, had its roots in England and had a great influence on
architecture in North America between 1880-1920.
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The Arts and Crafts architectural styles were being
driven by British architects such as C.F.A. Voysey and Edwin Lutyens. The
houses of the Arts and Crafts Movement were "wonderfully informal
and unpretentious, sophisticated in a very subtle way" and designs
suggested handcraftsmanship and a "harmony with the setting," says author Leslie Maitland in her
“Guide to Canadian Architecture Styles.”
The writings of William Morris and John Ruskin which
were widely publicized in North America, advocated for the Arts and
Crafts Movement's beliefs in the use of nationally indigenous
architectural styles and materials. Architecture was to compliment the
environment, be simple and functional and of the best quality.
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The leading two architects of the late 19th century
and early 20th century in Victoria were Francis Rattenbury and Samuel
Maclure. Whereas Rattenbury established himself as the foremost designer
of institutions, Maclure become the foremost architect of residential
homes. Maclure's early years in Victoria exemplify his deep connections
to the Arts and Crafts Movement.
The area of Rockland in Victoria in particular
contains numerous examples of the Arts and Crafts homes that were built
in the time around the turn of the century. The Rockland area was developed
in the early 1880's from a 500 acre Douglas Estate called "Fairfield
Farm". The intention of this subdivision was to develop a
prestigious neighborhood, says Martin Seggar, a biographer of noted
Canadian architect Samuel Maclure. (
Samuel Maclure had many commissions in the Rockland
area and many of his Arts and Crafts homes still remain to this day. Two
types of Arts and Crafts styles are particularly evident in the Rockland
area. These include the sloping hillside slope and the chalet house style.
Samuel Maclure (1860-1929) was born of Scottish
Immigrants in New Westminster, British Columbia. From his early years,
Maclure showed an interest in art and attended the Spring Garden
Institute in Philadelphia from 1884-85. While at the institute, Maclure developed
an interest in architecture and in the late 1880's returned to New Westminster
and joined a local architectural practice. In 1892, he moved to Victoria
and opened a practice of his own.
For nearly 20 years, Maclure dominated residential
architecture in Victoria. He is said to have been "probably the most
notable of Victoria's architects for both the quality and originality of
the work that stemmed from a 40 year practice in British Columbia,” says
Within 10 years of establishing his own practice,
Maclure had become the most successful domestic architect the area.
Although he was successful throughout British Columbia and Washington
State, most of his commissions were in Victoria.
Maclure was enchanted by the Arts and Crafts Movement
and developed his own architectural styles based on that philosophy. His
designs were "sensibly conceived, harmonious structures," says
Maclure biographer Janet Bingham. His earlier works in Victoria remain
truest to the Arts and Crafts styles. Maclure houses had many trademarks,
which made them distinct. These included broad hipped roofs with flaring
eaves, frequent use of stone and distinctive picture windows, always
facing a view. Interior features included an oak or fir-paneled central
hall and extremely high quality handcrafted detailing.
In his early years, Maclure developed the
"Maclure bungalow" style which were sturdy one story buildings,
wood-framed and surfaced in shingles. These houses were "practical,
handsome and inexpensive," said Leonard Eaton, a noted Maclure
biographer. In these years where
Maclure aligned himself with the Arts and Crafts Movement, his houses
show evidence of the architect struggling to find "an architectural
form expressive of the environment and its population," says Segger.
He did develop a style which was distinctly Arts and Crafts and
distinctly his own.
In keeping with the Arts and Crafts tradition,
Maclure believed in the individual and custom designing each home. No two
homes of Maclure are said to be the same. Although clients often
requested homes that resembled his existing work, Maclure refused to
comply because he believed that each house must be unique to the needs of
each client, says Bingham.
In designing these original homes, Maclure worked
closely with the wives of the household. The society wife was considered
the "arbiter of taste" and Maclure had a natural ability and
sensitivity to establish congenial working relationships with these women,
Maclure kept apprised about the current Arts and Crafts
styles by subscribing to several prominent architectural journals which
featured the latest works of Arts and Crafts architects such as Voysey,
Baillie-Scott and Lutyens. Voysey, in particular, had a great impact on
Maclure's designs. Maclure adopted many of Voysey's trademarks such as
the use of half-timber and open galleried central halls.
By 1903, the Voysey influence was quite evident in
Maclure's work by the transformation of Maclure's earlier colonial
bungalows to ones with larger roofs, more simplified forms and vestigial
buttresses. By 1912, "Maclure was not adverse to producing
residences which must be almost literal interpretations of the Voysey
manner," notes local historian Segger.
Maclure was also fascinated by the works of Frank
Lloyd Wright with whom he corresponded,” adds Bingham. Wright's influences on Maclure are
evident in the floating roof planes and rigid geometric handling of
timber in many of his designs.
Maclure's involvement in the Arts and Crafts Movement
was not restricted to architecture. In 1890, Maclure had begun giving watercolor
painting lessons which enabled him to socialize with the best of
Victoria's society. He took this opportunity to give lectures on the Arts
and Crafts philosophies and writings of such proponents of the movement
as William Morris.
In 1909, Maclure became one of the founding members
of the Vancouver Island Arts and Crafts Society. As the cream of society,
it greatly influenced the tastes and styles of the families on the island.
Maclure reached the high point in his career between
the years 1900 and 1914. During this time, he popularized the English
half-timber home which is now a unique characteristic style of Victoria.
Many of Maclure's designs were published in prestigious international journals
such as the Craftsman, The Studio and Country Life.
Although Maclure moved away from the Arts and Crafts
style in his later years, the impact of his Arts and Crafts designs on
Victoria were substantial. He developed a style which now typifies residences
in Victoria in the time of the turn of the century and, "if today,
the city has a reputation as the most English place in Canada, it is due
in no small measure to the half timber idiom which [Samuel Maclure]
popularized," said biographer Eaton.
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