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During the 1940s, the Greater Vancouver area participated in an emerging architectural trend that would eventually dominate the region’s residential design scene. Dubbed “west coast” architecture, the style displays a complex blend of modern and contemporary elements represented by huge windows, flat roofs, and asymmetrical geometric dimensions. Its influence on the latest residential design trends remains strong. And with the region’s abundance of natural materials like wood, it also ushered the industry’s focus on sustainable, cost-efficient design and construction solutions.
We have listed the best residential architects and residential designers in Vancouver. These professionals maintain the architectural movement the region is known for, but they have also transformed and elevated these styles with their own artistic and aesthetic vision.
The firms presented below are either based in the city or have completed multiple design projects in the area. Our editorial team considered the awards, publications features, and other contributions that the firms were recognized for. We also looked at the quality of their principals and partner architects, the value and size of their projects, client reviews, and client testimonials.
This list includes both licensed architects and residential designers who can both design stunning homes but differ in other services offered. Architects are trained in design, engineering, and project management and have passed a licensing exam. Residential designers typically don’t manage projects and plans will need to be approved by a structural engineer. Whether you choose to hire an architect or a residential designer will depend on your project needs and complexity.
Ankenman Marchand Architects
1645 West 5th Ave., Vancouver BC V6J 1N5
Architecture, community planning, and urban design projects can be found in Ankenman Marchand Architects’s award-winning portfolio. Timothy Ankenman founded the company and partnered with Francois Marchand to deliver projects that adhere to the industry’s strictest standards in design. The partners’ efforts have been rewarded with multiple recognitions for a variety of project ventures. In 2014 its Paris Block project earned the Innovation Award in the Vancouver Urban Design Awards. The firm also won multiple Georgie Awards for several of its mixed-use and residential projects.
The company’s wide scope of services is provided by the firm’s multi-disciplinary crew of technicians, architects, and interior designers. The company designs spaces that cater to the functional and design needs of the residential markets, and it also creates homes that are sustainable, LEED-certified, and built using environmentally-responsible methods.
One example of the company’s unforgettable project for the single-family sector is a private residence in Vancouver. It was a west coast modern design that represents the client’s dream of a minimalist home. Its striking, massive windows invite copious amounts of natural light into the home. The project was designed so that it exudes a “sense of floating,” a sensation made possible through a clever choice of materials, textures, and palettes.
Architecture Building Culture
203-132 West 15th St., North Vancouver, BC V7M 1R5
Principal architects Brian Cavanaugh and Mark Ritchie head the company’s everyday operations. Both completed two decades of experience in the practice and established independent backgrounds that solidified their success in the industry. Before founding the firm, Cavanaugh worked for global architectural studios and held respected positions in these companies. Ritchie, on the other hand, traveled: he has worked in some of the biggest firms found in Asia, New Zealand, and Australia.
Today, the company is an award-winning firm that is committed to delivering transformative, life-changing designs to the region’s most sophisticated clients. The firm believes that behind every satisfying project is a dynamic collaboration among team members. Using the same concept of collaboration, the firm has established long term relationships with the most respected thought leaders in the industry.
Over the years, the firm has earned much-deserved praise from regional and national organizations. In 2017, for instance, the firm was given the national AIA Small Project Award and the 2016 Citation Award from the organization’s Northwest and Pacific Region office. And Architect Magazine included the company in its The Architect 50 ranking in 2013. In late 2019, the Howard Residence, located in West Vancouver, was awarded the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Award in Architecture – Merit Level by the Architecture Foundation of BC.
Arno Matis Architecture
204-1540 West 2nd Ave., Vancouver BC, Canada V6J 1H2
Arno Matis Architecture is one of the most awarded design firms in the country. For two consecutive years, it has secured its ranking as one of the top 40 leading global design firms of the 21st century.
Arno Matis, the founding principal, has helped shape the region’s architectural landscapes through innovative and timeless designs for a wide spectrum of typologies and markets. Urban design, interior architecture, project management, rezoning, project feasibility, and graphic designs, can be found in its portfolio. The firm is also a highly recommended designer for complex, high-value residential architecture projects.
The firm’s residential projects are some of the most discussed commissions in the design scene. One example of the firm’s contemporary works is The Floating House. The 4,000-square-foot single-family home highlights the contrasting balance between Asian and Western design influences. This project caught the attention of multiple publications and was eventually featured in leading magazines, including the Archdaily, Wallpaper Magazine, Houseporn, and National Post.
Blue Sky Architecture
4090 Bayridge Ave., West Vancouver, BC
Blue Sky Architecture’s organic approach to west coast modern architecture makes it one of the most unique design firms in the region. Many of its designs have one dominant element: wood. Every project is a celebration of the company’s nod to environmental awareness through its innovative designs and sensitive use of this local material.
© Heath Moffatt
Its award-winning portfolio presents how the company’s take on architecture is well-received by the industry. Its Lake Shore House won the 2017 City of Kingston Livable City Design Awards, Award of Excellence. The firm also earned the CHBA Vancouver Island CARE Gold awards under the Best Single Family Detached Home category and the Canadian Wood Council Wood Works BC Design Awards under the Residential Wood Design category—both for its Arbutus House project.
While the company is based in West Vancouver, many of its single and multifamily projects can be found across Canada and the United States. Initially formed in Hornby Island in 1975, the firm has grown to become one of the biggest figures on the architecture scene. Today, the company is headed by two principal architects, Kim Smith and Bo Helliwell. Both received the 2013 Architect of the Year Award, granted by the Canada Wood Council’s Wood Works program.
Frits de Vries Architects + Associates Ltd.
1834 West 1st Ave., Vancouver, BC V6J 1G5
While Frits de Vries Architects + Associates is a mid-sized firm, it has partnered with private clients and industry-leading developers to transform complex design ideas into architectural masterpieces. Principal Frits de Vries—AIBC, MRAIC, and Senior Associate Patrick Warren, follow a design process that encourages a dynamic collaboration between the client and the architect. The firm’s 12 talented Architects, building designers, technologists and Interior Designers work as tight-knit, integrated team.
The results are unique, even timeless.
The firm’s designs are not only aesthetically striking but are also crafted to be sustainable and environmentally-conscious. The firm designed Western Canada’s first LEED Platinum Home. Since then, green design has become a part of its standard process. The firm is currently working on a Passive House 4-unit residential building in Vancouver’s West side.
Industry awards decorate the firm’s residential design portfolio. The Boundary Bay 2 residence was awarded Lieutenant Governor’s Merit for Architecture Award by the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. The West 21st Avenue residence was awarded with Merit by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada. The Tolmie Street Residence won the 2017 Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) Georgie Awards in the Best Custom Home $1.9 million – $3 million category. Recently their designs for 51 homes for Holborn Properties was a multi-award winner at the International Property Awards 2019. For more information on Frits de Vries Architects + Associates Ltd., you can visit their website here.
Haeccity Studio Architecture
108 E Pender, Vancouver, BC, V6A 1T3
Many of the firm’s projects have been featured and celebrated throughout the industry’s biggest publications. Western Living, Dwell, Archdaily, Archello, Vancouver Sun, as well as CBC News have all highlighted the firm’s nod to innovative, environmentally-responsible designs, especially for the residential construction markets. They were the winner of the Missing Middle Competition and are advocates for affordable housing at the middle density scale.
Hanks and Shen, licensed architects in Vancouver and Washington State respectively, have a combined experience that ranges from mid- and high-end homes to large mixed-use and institutional projects.
John Henshaw Architect Inc.
1666 West 75th Ave., Vancouver, BC, V6P 6G2
Versatility and innovation allowed John Henshaw Architect (JHA) to explore the different facets of the architecture industry, making them one of the most experienced professionals in the field. Its over 25 years of operations are marked with multiple Georgie Awards and life long memberships with the industry’s biggest organizations. These include the Architectural Institute of British Columbia, Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and the National Kitchen+Bath Association (NKBA).
The firm’s principal architect, John Henshaw, is a LEED-accredited professional, so it’s no surprise the firm is also known for incorporating energy-efficient designs into many of its projects. As a designer of stunning homes, Henshaw’s success is well-documented by the design scene’s trade publications. Vancouver Home, Boulevard, BC Home and Garden, and Perspectives on Design: Western Canada have all featured many of the company’s award-winning projects.
Architectures that play with the complementing elements of the eastern and western influences can be found in the firm’s portfolio. Its Contemporary, Modern, and Classical designs introduce the firm’s mastery in the old and new language of architecture. Its Wiltshire Residence, for instance, is a 5,800-square-foot project that highlights the company’s fluency when it comes to creating classic Tudor-inspired living spaces. With this style, you’ll find large, rectangular windows, complex gabled roofing, brick wall tapestry, and the use of dominant wooden elements.
Marken Design + Consulting
300-225 W 8th Ave., Vancouver, BC V5Y 1N3
As the designer of Canada’s first residential Passive House certified by the German Passivhaus Institute, Marken Design+Consulting leads the country’s sustainable design movement through fresh and holistic methods in creating notable architecture. The firm holds the record; with the most completed (we only design not build) passive house projects in Canada and is one of North America’s leading experts in the same discipline.
Aside from its contributions to the industry in the form of high-performance designs, the firm also focuses on implementing approaches to Net Zero, LEED-certified, and Zero-Emission buildings. It currently is a member of the Canadian Green Building Council (CGBC) and is affiliated with the International Passive House Association. Its extensive background allows it to answer a wide spectrum of residential design and construction demands, including green interior design, project management, green building consulting, and passive house consulting.
The firm has received repeated recognition from the design community. In 2019, it won the Energy Globe Award Canada and, in 2016, the Canadian Green Building Award. Both awards recognized the work of Fort St. John Passive House. In recent years, it also brought home multiple NewCity Design Awards and the Georgie Awards for Best Renovation.
#207-1836 West 5th Ave., Vancouver, BC V6J 1P3
Measured Architecture’s full-service approach to design ensures that every project will represent even the tiniest details of its client’s original vision. To do so, the firm initiates a collaborative environment that establishes a productive and efficient working relationship among the key members of the project. Since its founding in 2007, it has partnered with top contractors, consultants, traders, and artisans to provide architecture, installations, interiors, and landscape services throughout the region.
The Shift House is one of the firm’s most notable projects. It was a collaboration with one of the region’s leading builders, Powers Construction. Located in Vancouver’s east side, the residence represents what the designers described as “distinct and playful identity.” In using “play” as a concept, the homeowners wanted a living space that allows their children to explore and be creative. Because of its nod to thoughtful design and innovation, the home has been featured digitally on Dwell.
The firm’s continued success in the industry can be attributed to the extensive background of its principal architects, Clinton Cuddington and Piers Cunnington. Cuddington formed the company. Cunnington joined the firm in 2009 and became a principal five years later. Aside from completing their Master of Architecture degrees, they also have multiple high-value project completions under their belt.
Michael Green Architect
1535 West 3rd Drive Ave., Vancouver, BC V6J 1J8
What makes Michael Green Architect a genuinely customer-centric firm is its commitment to deliver projects that tell a unique story. Many of its designs capture the spirit of its dwellers as well as the community where they belong. Every structure, every design, tells a story that ultimately delivers a transformative and positive experience.
Following its unique design philosophy, the company establishes its presence as a firm that offers timeless architecture through innovative, technology-based methods. The company is known for transforming living spaces through advanced wood products and technologies. Its principal architect, Michael Green, has greatly contributed to the industry’s pursuit of exploring the untapped potential of the medium, researching and advocating for the use of wood in the built environment.
The firm’s trailblazing approach to residential design can be observed in its Evergreen Residence. The project highlights the use of wooden elements: reclaimed wood and an exterior cladding charred using traditional Japanese and Scandinavian methods. The style ensures longevity. The project was part of an extensive renovation work that transformed a post and beam house into a living space designed to accommodate the lifestyle demands of the family and—at the same time—create a structure that compliments the natural landscape.
OpenSpace Architecture (OSA)
165 1st St. E., North Vancouver, BC V7L 1B2
Don Gurney founded OpenSpace to design living spaces that are contextually relevant and to embody a client’s personal vision. To expand his understanding of design, Gurney actively takes part in workshops that explore sustainable design methods, programming and space relationships, and other innovations in architecture.
As a boutique architectural and interior design studio, the company takes on custom single-family and resort residential commissions. It also has the training and manpower to complete master planning and infrastructure projects. While the company is based in Vancouver, it serves international clients through virtual and online meetings. This varied clientele allows the firm to explore the design styles and architectural variations that represent a broad spectrum of different cultures.
Many of the firm’s works are characterized by large, asymmetric, geometrical designs. These features are common in many west coast contemporary architectures—a residential style that uses heavy timber structures and is prevalent across the country.
1564 West 6th Ave., Vancouver BC V6J 1R2
Since 1978, Patkau Architects has been delivering design and architectural services to residential project owners and urban developers. As an active member of the architecture industry, the firm also explores other design ventures such as art installations and architectural research. Its publication, Material Operations, can be accessed through Princeton Architecture Press.
John Patkau and Patricia Patkau established the company as an international design firm that serves Canada and the US. In 2013, they welcomed two new principal architects, Greg Boothroyd and David Shone. Boothroyd has an extensive background in conceptual design. Shone, on the other hand, leads the practice’s quality control and project management. Both are LEED-accredited professionals.
These four leaders that have long dominated the region’s architectural scene have successfully delivered projects for the residential, academic, and cultural sectors. One project that represents a profound understanding of design and structure is the Hadaway House located in BC’s snowy southwestern valley. The home is a geometrically-complex structure that cleverly addresses the challenges of the landscape. It was designed to adhere to the area’s strict housing community guidelines. The home’s striking, eccentric, yet gorgeous form was highlighted in publications such as the Archdaily and Architect Magazine.
Pavel Denisov Design
322, 18th Street West, North Vancouver, BC V7M 1W9
Since Pavel Denisov Design’s founding over ten years ago, principal Pavel Denisov has led his company’s rise as an innovative and contemporary designer for materially-efficient homes.
The firm has built an enduring relationship with the international company Kontio, a Finland-based manufacturer of cross-laminated log system. This collaboration introduced a significant segment of the company’s services for its residential clients: 21st-century log homes that can be designed according to the aesthetic and functional demands of its dwellers. The material grants design flexibility that enables future transformations and cost-efficient structural changes.
One project that made use of this emerging design construction type is the Nordic Touch. The project is an approximately 3,300-square-foot residence that houses modern features: a high-end kitchen, interior fireplace, and a jetted jacuzzi. The home won the 2018 Georgie Awards Winner for Best Innovative Feature and 2018 Georgie Award Finalist post for Best Single Family Home up to $900K and for Best Interior Design.
Randy Bens Architecture
1833 Edinburgh St., New Westminster, BC V3M 2X2
During Randy Bens’s early years in the industry, he apprenticed with some of the biggest architectural studios in North America. His innate talent as a designer and the training that helped him hone his craft gave way to a promising career in the architecture industry. Bens graduated with Distinction from the RAIC and he later learned his license as an architect.
Fast forward to 2005 after completing high-value projects for other firms, Bens finally established his own company. Today, his firm, though a small practice, takes on high-value and highly complex custom single-family residences and commercial projects. The company’s focused attention to every commission– treating each one as a unique endeavor—is well-documented in many industry publications. These include Azure Magazine, Archdaily, Dwell, Contemporist, Design Milk, Georgia Straight, and CTV Story, among others.
One example of the firm’s luxury design projects is the St. Georges Residence found in West Vancouver. The home is a contemporary rectangular structure designed to frame the landscape’s picturesque westward scenery. The roofing is asymmetrical, shaped by its vaulted interior spaces. Concrete, wood, and metal are the structure’s most dominant exterior elements.
Stuart Howard Architects Inc.
Unit 405, 375 W 5th Ave., Vancouver, BC V5Y 1J6
Stuart Howard Architects’ four decades of contributions to the region’s single-family and multifamily markets make it one of the most productive firms in the industry. Many of the firm’s milestones are marked with design innovations that prepared the firm to take on a wider spectrum of building topologies. The company also collaborates with the biggest builders to complete institutional facilities and rehabilitation structures across Canada.
Stuart Howard founded the company with the vision of introducing “inventive design solutions” that would soon elevate his place as a trailblazing professional in the field of architecture. Over the years, this inspiration fueled his firm’s success and won them multiple recognitions, including the Georgie Awards, Western Living Awards, Heritage Society of BC Awards, and Vancouver Heritage Awards, to name just a few.
Since its inception, the company has completed over 350 structures not just in Canada but also in the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and the Caribbean. The firm’s works in the residential market, modern and contemporary designs can be found in its extensive and gorgeous gallery.