International Calvert House Competition Booklet


calvert house1954 winning designs

Canada in the 1950s was privy to a number of important competitions for public buildings : The National Gallery in Ottawa (1953), The Civic Auditorium in Vancouver (1956), and Toronto City Hall (1958). These prominent buildings were a symbol of civic power and are still influential in their respective urban environments. The same cannot be said of the projects proposed in the Calvert House competition, whose domestic influence has been limited and as such, have not been a factor in shaping the history of Canadian architecture. The competition was a major event in Canadian architecture circles in the 1950s, this competition saw 1600 registrants and obtained 661 proposals from 17 countries. At the time, the Calvert homes were published in a catalogue available for sale, in a concerted effort to make them accessible at large.

After World War Two, housing in Canada was a top priority. The projects selected in the 1954 Calvert House competition mark the entry of certain modernist architectural values into the domestic realm. With its manifestation of technical and aesthetic innovations, the Calvert House entries were a far cry from the CMHC housing competition of 1946. A quick look at the CCC documentation of both of these competitions reveals a dramatic change from one to the next. The traditional homes with decorated façades presented in 1946, make way, in 1954, for typically modernist attributes such as flat roofs, continuity of space, ribbon windows, pergolas, abstract compositions, and asymmetry.

-Izabel Amaral

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