architecture · History · urban design · Vancouver

It’s Not Just Five Houses: The Architecture of Jan Adriaan Pauw

Given Vancouver’s crazy real estate market it’s not surprising that so many interesting and unique bits of architecture get consigned to the landfill. So it’s a delight to find that all five of the houses (and a garage) designed by Dutch-born architect Jan Adriaan Pauw during his short time in Vancouver have survived.

The Catholic Reading Room and Library, Heerlen

Jan Adriaan Pauw was born in Amsterdam in1891 and attended the Delft Polytechnic School from 1909 to 1913 and a few years after graduation he began working with architect Johannes Martinus Van Hardeveld. One of their early commissions was the Catholic Public Reading Room and Library (1917) situated  at the corner of the Tempsplein in Heerlen. The Amsterdam School style building was converted to six housing units in 1994.

Apart from the Reading Room and Library they also designed a row of middle-class houses at Tempsplein in 1918. Architect and town planner Jan Stuyt had laid out the Tempsplein in 1913 as part of an expansion plan for town.

Pauw and Hardeveld were commissioned by an Amsterdam consortium in 1919 to design a “First Class hotel and theatre” in Heerlen to be built by local architect and contractor Wilhelmus Wijsbek. There were earlier newspaper accounts that noted that Wijsbek had been given the commission but later articles attribute the design to Pauw and Hardeveld.The project ran into difficulties, money may have been an issue, and would eventually open in 1925 with a performance by the choir of the Sistine Chapel from Rome. The complex was remodelled and enlarged over the years before being demolished in 1972.

Other commissions included a large apartment complex in Amsterdam along with a number of houses. In the 1920s they started to build projects using the Isola System of hollow concrete blocks developed by the NV Internationale Gewapend Beton-Bouw (IGB) company in Breda. The first set of concrete test houses were built in Anderlecht near Brussels in the Het Rad district. In 1921, a similar experiment of 93 homes followed in the Strevelswijk in Rotterdam, which is known as ‘Isola I’ after the name of the concrete construction system. 

The Stulemeijer Complex in Rotterdam

Between 1920 and 1924 the second Isola project, consisting of 396 homes and 13 shops, was built in the Hillesluis and Strevelswijk neighbourhoods of Rotterdam. The complex is named after the Stulemeijer family, who owned the company that developed the concrete blocks. 

As the project in Rotterdam was underway a similar working-class neighbourhood was built in Den Bosch consisting of 376 homes and 13 shops. Hardeveld and Pauw designed similar projects with the system in Amsterdam, Breda and Brussels however, further projects for standardized concrete construction in Betondorp and Karnemelksland in South Rotterdam (both 1922) were not realized. 

The design influence of the Isola System houses show up in Heerlen with a set of houses built in 1921 on the opposite side of the Tempsplein from their earlier commissions which were described as having a ‘modern’ appearance due to the flat roofs and the coloured bands as found on the Stulemeijer Complex. Their last collaboration was in 1929 with the design for the Coolsingel building competition, in Rotterdam.

Pauw was one of 377 architects to enter the international competition for the League of Nations Building in Geneva in 1927 the same year he leaves the Netherlands, bound for Vancouver.

Soon after his arrival he is at work during 1928 designing three residential projects produced during his short time in the city. They are the Camprey House, 4629 West Second originally designed for Mr. Griffith Hughes, but in 1929 it was acquired by the Campney family; the Grandcourt Residence, a delightful Tudor Revival for Charles de Grandcourt and his second wife Bavven; and Pauw’s best known work the Douglas M. Stuart Residence at 4051 Marguerite Street.

The Douglas M. Stuart House, 4051 Marguerite St

The house was commissioned by Mr. Stuart but he never took up residence there. The design is a strong nod to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style crossed with the Amsterdam School which creates an exceptionally coherent design. It has been called the B.T. Lea House in the mistaken belief that it was built for the builder Brenton T. Lea. While Lea lived in the house for about five years he was never the owner, in fact it was a common practice of his with a number of the houses he constructed that he would take up residence for a year or so before selling them on. Interestingly, B T. Lea was the builder for all of Pauw’s Vancouver houses.

In 1929 Pauw designed only two houses. The B.T Chappell House at 1751 West King Edward Avenue owned by the district manager for Canadian National Railways and 5845 Macdonald for Chartered Accountant Thomas P. Hill.

Outside of designing houses, Pauw presented lectures on town planning and modern architecture to a variety of groups including the BC Art league, the Vancouver Institute and the University of BC.

In 1931, Pauw was hired by the Seattle-based Lumbermans Association and was preparing to move to the United States, however on a trip to Portland, Oregon that same year, Pauw’s automobile went off the highway outside the city and sadly, he died from his injuries.

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