CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Robin Ward

Madeira Park (B.C.), Harbour Publish­ing, 1990. 144pp, cloth, $29.95
ISBN 1-55017-030-9. CIP

Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up
Reviewed by Adele Case.

Volume 19 Number 2
1991 March

A city's architecture gives the most visible clue to its past, as well as a blueprint of styles and forms that suit the needs of the metropolis. Robin Ward's views mostly show "heritage" sites in Vancouver - many illustrate the neoclassic, late Victorian, Edwardian and art deco styles of a city that is changing fast. The sad fact is that a number of the elegant structures that Ward has so brilliantly drafted have been demolished, or are in limbo, awaiting an economy that will justify a high-rise building in place of the present low-rise building.

The book cover shows the former Georgia Street Medical-Dental Building, now in the process of being transformed into a combined subway terminal, office block and mini-mall. This is common in today's Vancouver. So much the more reason to treasure this elegant book, with Ward's exquisitely detailed facades of buildings and structures still extant as well as those recently torn down. This coffee-table-sized book will be valued not only by those who love Vancouver for its old British Empire flavour, but also by others who nostalgically recog­nize the surviving structures as part of Vancouver's historic heritage.

Robin Ward, trained in Glasglow, has specialized in architecturally exact black on white illustration. His mastery of perspective and his artist's eye for balance is notable. By good fortune, his settling in Vancouver has made possible this 144-page glossy book of representa­tions enlivened by a useful glossary at the back of the book. The sketches are uniformly works of art, perfectly proportioned and in every way evoca­tive of the grand originals they repre­sent. The line drawings were first printed in the Vancouver Sun, with Ward's comments about the architect, history of the structure, materials used and other points of general interest.

One cannot browse through the book without appreciating the diversity of designs, from the magnificence of the bank buildings (truly temples to Mammon - one even shows not-yet-erased graffiti, satirically reading "Jesus Saves - Moses invests"), quirky hotels, a few lovely old cathedrals and churches, solid-looking railway stations, apartment buildings, a pier, and even a vintage railway engine. There are also a few private homes (domed and preten­tious), an imposing mansion, a plain and unadorned old historic building, and the clean lines of one of the water­front grain elevators. For each of these structures Ward has included his own notes and his opinion of the structure. He discusses the architectural firm that took on the commission, the date of construction, the ornamentation used, and the history of the building in brief.

This unique book depicts Ward's rendering of a civilized way of life, one that may seem pass6 to thrusting young business folk of today who could not justify expenditure for cut granite, elaborate Grecian or Roman columns or intricate pediments.


Adele Case, Britannia Secondary School, Vancouver, B.C.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works