Peter Cardew

In 1967 Cardew joined Rhone & Iredale in Vancouver, becoming a partner in 1974. In his 13 years with this firm he was project team designer for several award-winning buildings, including the Lignum Forestry Building (1977), the Crown Life Tower (1980) and False Creek townhouses (1980).

Belkin Gallery
Secondary and service entrance to Belkin Gallery on the plaza, from the west. Peter Cardew architect (photo by Sherry McKay)
Belkin Gallery, UBC
Entrance to main hall, east side of Belkin Gallery (photo by Sherry McKay)

Peter Cardew

  Peter Cardew, architect (b at Guildford, Eng 8 Jun 1939). Cardew attended Kingston Polytechnic, Kingston-on-Thames, UK (1958-64), receiving his Diploma in Architecture in 1964. He worked in Stuttgart, Germany (1961-62), and briefly in England before his immigration to Canada in 1966. Cardew's ongoing interest in the structural rationalism characteristic of modernism may owe something to these early influences.

In 1967 Cardew joined Rhone & Iredale in Vancouver, becoming a partner in 1974. In his 13 years with this firm he was project team designer for several award-winning buildings, including the Lignum Forestry Building (1977), the Crown Life Tower (1980) and False Creek townhouses (1980).

In 1980 Cardew established his own practice, Peter Cardew Architects. While modern materials and technology inspire the forms and volumes of his work, he relies on the straightforward detailing of vernacular building to enhance its accessibility. Cardew has also shown a remarkable capacity in his work to link building and site through design. Examples include the Lignum Building, an office building designed for a small sawmill; an industrial arts shop for the Kitkatla Indian Band's Lach Klan School (Dolphin Island, northwest BC, 1988); and the Stone Band School for the Chilcotin people (Chilcotin Region, north central BC, 1991).

In 1984 Peter Cardew was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Art. In addition to his architectural practice, he has taught and lectured extensively in North and South America and Europe, and has served as chairman of the City of Vancouver Urban Design Panel. A retrospective exhibition and monograph of his work, Peter Cardew: Ordinary Buildings, was presented by the Charles H. Scott Gallery, Emily Carr University of Art and Design, in 1996.

Peter Cardew Architects has won both national and international awards for its work. Projects recognized by a Canadian Architect Award of Excellence include the O'Sullivan-Donaldson Residence, Lion's Bay, BC (1980); the Lach Klan School industrial arts shop (1988); the Stone Band School (1990); the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery (1994); the Lignum Offices and Forestry Centre addition (1996) and the Garden Wall House (2006). Cardew has garnered 3 Progressive Architecture awards and in 1999 he was awarded the RAIC Governor General's Medal of Excellence for Architecture for the Belkin Art Gallery. He has received RAIC Lieutenant Governor Awards for a private residence in West Vancouver (1999), the Belkin Art Gallery (1999), the Odlum Drive Live-Work Studios (1999) and the LeBlanc House (2007).

In 1992, Peter Cardew Architects, in partnership with a British firm, completed New Bridge Square in Wiltshire, UK, the firm's first major international project and a significant foray into large-scale public work. Nonetheless, Cardew's more modest projects in and around Vancouver continue to receive the most critical recognition.

The Stein Medical Clinic (2005) captures a triangular 122-square-metre remnant of the ground floor of an office tower and demonstrates the architect's considerable skill in composing well-proportioned spaces in constrained sites. The project is typical of Cardew's minimalistic design approach: simple, subtly dramatic compositions of planes and volumes; hard surfaces enlivened by lighting; a restrained material palette; and expressive but sparing detailing.

This exacting design approach is evident in Cardew's residential projects such as the Garden Wall House (2006), an infill house in the back garden of a heritage manor, and the LeBlanc House (2007), a renovation of a post-war split-level bungalow. The Garden Wall House, a slender bar-shaped building composed of 6 rooms and 3 courtyards, is carefully sited to maximize access to light and outdoor space for the new dwelling while maintaining the openness of the original manor lot. The garden wall itself ensures the privacy of both houses and emphasizes the site's urban character.

In the LeBlanc House, strategic incisions reconfigure the split-level bungalow's floorplan while maintaining the clarity of its original form. The dropped ceiling at the split-level line is peeled back and a vaulted skylight is added, bringing light into the main living spaces. Playful shifts in scale create a spatial narrative through the house; for example, the ceiling in the foyer is lowered while the front door is over-sized.

The Garden Wall House, LeBlanc House and Saturna Island House (2002) all show Cardew's careful attention to detail: sharp corners and reveals heighten the effect of juxtaposed volumes and materials. This detailing, despite (or because of) its aesthetic simplicity, requires a high degree of precision in construction. Cardew priorizes quality workmanship in his projects, often seeking out specific builders and tradespeople. The LeBlanc House, for example, was realized in close collaboration with builder John Mason, a London-trained architectural graduate.