Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Calgary Trend House is a T-shaped, split-level Modern-style ranch house set on a trapezoidal lot facing 47 Avenue on the east side of Elbow Drive. Broken into two volumes connected by a glazed stair hall, the front portion has a long, linear profile, with a monocline roof and vertical wood siding, distinguished by a central prominent red brick chimney, central inset entryway, and clerestory and banked windows on the front façade. The rear two-storey portion has a low-pitched gabled roof and irregular fenestration. A separate garage is connected to the main roofline of the front of the house by a breezeway.
The Calgary Trend House is one of only 11 innovative and modern houses built across Canada as part of the Trend House Program from 1953 to 1954.
The Calgary Trend House is highly significant as a symbol of new expression in modern living in Calgary after the Second World War, and served as a prototype for Prairie Modernism and innovative technologies in Canadian-based materials and design. Spurred by nation-wide prosperity and optimism in the post-Second World War boom, the Trend House Program built on the success of the Case Study House program in the United States. This pan-Canadian program was sponsored by the BC Softwood Lumber Association, the Plywood Manufacturers Association and the Consolidated Red Cedar Shingle Association of BC, and was conceived as a platform to display the viability of BC softwood for the production of modern homes for the middle class. Trend Houses were built in various cities across Canada including Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Montréal, London, Toronto (2), and Halifax.
Calgary’s ‘Home of Tomorrow’ was completed in 1954 as an innovative design by Rule Wynn & Rule, an Edmonton firm with a Calgary office. The house was opened to the public from April 19 to August 8, 1954 and featured local products and mass-produced materials, with furnishings chosen from the Canadian Design Index, a catalog of Canadian design products selected by experts at the National Art Gallery. Furnishings from the Index were provided by Eaton’s, and all appliances were donated by General Electric.
The architecture and design of the Calgary Trend House was considered highly progressive at the time, and the house was acclaimed for its functional innovation that maximized its open spatial qualities and allowed natural light to penetrate throughout the interior spaces. The split-level design consists of only 140 square meters of space designed in a low profile, linear Modern Ranch style. The T-shaped plan, with a monocline roof at the front that connected to a separated garage to the east, ingeniously considered space and function, delineating the main public spaces such as the living, dining rooms and kitchen as open concept spaces at the front of the house, with more private living spaces in the low-pitched, side-gabled two-storey portion at the back of the house. Clerestory windows on the west side are arranged in an innovative way for both passive solar control and privacy. Full-height wall glazing on the north façade of the single storey structure allows maximum natural light and provides unencumbered views of Calgary’s downtown and concealed patio space. The numerous plantings, setbacks and carefully-planned outdoor spaces engage the streetscape and further demonstrate the progressive and humanist character of the design.
An integral component of the Trend House Program was the use of Canadian softwood products and Canadian designed materials and technologies to showcase domestic living in the postwar era. Thus, the house is clad in Western Red Cedar vertical siding and displays a central inset front door composed of Douglas Fir plywood. The interior space displays an airy vaulted ceiling with exposed Douglas Fir glulam beams – a very early use of this technology in a residential format – and knotty Western Red Cedar panels. Etched and grooved plywood panels are visible in the kitchen and dining rooms. The interior also featured innovation in space provisions utilizing softwood products for a built-in sideboard and planter in the dining room; built-in dressers and bedside tables in the secondary bedroom; and a dressing room with closet storage. The use of locally available and inexpensive products was a key feature of the Trend House Program, and the Calgary Trend House displayed this in its use of Arborite and plastic laminate countertops and backsplashes in a variety of colourful and modern patterns in the kitchen, bedrooms and washrooms.
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Calgary Trend House include its:
- original location on a trapezoidal sloped lot on the east side of Elbow Drive and 47 Avenue, SW;
- siting in a residential context with views of downtown Calgary;
- form, scale and massing as expressed by its: T-shaped split-level plan, with a one-storey portion at the front with a monocline roof, a two-storey side-gabled pavilion at the rear connected by a glazed hallway and garage under the main roof separated by a breezeway;
- wood-frame construction, including Red Cedar vertical siding and Douglas Fir glulam structural beams, wood (board) soffits, Claybank red-brick interior/exterior chimney;
- variety of original wood frame and fixed sash double-glazed windows including ribbon and clerestory windows with operable awning sashes on lower portion; glazed wall of windows on northwest side of house;
-exterior light fixtures;
- interior features such as: high ceilings; original plan/layout; a variety of BC softwood products such as Douglas Fir exposed ceiling beams, grooved and etched plywood paneling in kitchen and dining room, knotty Red Cedar panelling in the living room, built-in furniture including a Douglas Fir sideboard in dining room lined with a zinc planter, built-in dressing room dressers; and Arborite and laminate powder room walls and dresser top in Modern-style patterns; and
- landscape features such as mature trees, exterior spaces aligned with windows placement and doors, and concrete terrace on west facade