Blakey Residence


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Architect William Blakey’s (1882-1975) own house is considered one of the most important modern historic resources in the city. It is a modest yet fine example of the International Style, which is typified by the use of asymmetrical composition, flat roofs, corner windows and simple stucco cladding. It was experimental in its conception and it is notable that the architect chose to exemplify his theories with his own residence.


International Modernism is a broad, stylistic category that has many offshoots. It differs from classicism, and its derivatives such as Art Deco, which emphasized solidity, groundedness and symmetrical composition. The International Style, the origins of which were in early 20th Century Europe, emphasized lightness and transparency, as well as asymmetrical composition. Detailing was greatly simplified and a certain idealism accompanied the movement which espoused that housing could be more affordable and less associated with the revival of classicism in the 19th C.



The owners of this residence in Edmonton’s historic west-end neighbourhood, Glenora, were committed to its preservation, but owing to the limited size of the original house, they needed more living space. The design of the addition and renovations was intended to protect and restore the heritage value of the house, including its original form and composition, as well as the exterior features. An additional 1000 sq ft of living space was added to the house in close consultation with the heritage planners at the City of Edmonton.



The owners wanted to maintain a friendly and open relationship with the neighbourhood while providing the necessary sense of privacy that a family requires. The fence defines the private zone of the yard, yet is the right height to encourage street-side dialogue with neighbours and pedestrians. The windows of the addition provide plentiful natural light to the new family room as well as an appropriate amount of privacy with strategic views to the street that are expected in a safe neighbourhood.


A screen-enclosed veranda was used as the device that provides an appropriate transition between the house and the yard, while enhancing the sense of connection with the neighbourhood and the street. The intervention of the addition was deliberately made subordinate to the historic house.


Making a contemporary addition to an International Style house is problematic, since it was, more or less, complete as designed. The addition touches the original house as lightly as possible, yet uses a distinct and respectful new architectural vocabulary as the design genesis.


The addition uses the same exterior stucco cladding as the original house and the overall effect is a subtle expression of harmony between the pieces, but with a clear distinction between old and new. The original house was designed to cleverly and simply address its corner location. The urban design intention of this project is to maintain a respectful treatment of the original house, which is a local landmark, and to make a meaningful gesture that supports the pedestrian nature of this historic neighbourhood.