Description of Historic Place
3225 Beach Drive is a single storey home in the West Coast Modern style located on a waterfront lot in the Uplands neighbourhood of Oak Bay, British Columbia. The exterior is clad in stone and wood. The house is only partially visible from the road, and is approached by a drive with a pergola running along the right-hand side.
The primary heritage value of 3225 Beach Drive lies in the significance of its modernist architecture. It is a fine representative of the West Coast Modern style, strongly influenced by the domestic work of Frank Lloyd Wright. The characteristic of strong horizontality is established by the drop siding, the thin stone slabs laid in alternating courses of projecting and receding stones, the deep eaves, and the shallow-pitched hipped roof. The extensive use of glass, without corner mullions, demonstrates the fusion between the exterior and interior that is a hallmark of the style. The U-shaped floor plan is organized around an entrance courtyard which is approached by an angled path, creating the impression that the house is a part of the landscape. At the rear, a virtual wall of glass looks out over Haro Strait which, from the interior, appears to be a continuation of the living space.
Built by Farmer Construction in 1959, 3225 Beach Drive is also valued because it was designed by Victoria architect John Di Castri, who also designed renovations to the house in 1969 and 1993. Di Castri, a native of Victoria, studied under Bruce Goff at the University of Oklahoma and in 1952 opened his own practice in Victoria, where he played a leading role in attempting to establish modern architecture. His work remains distinctive for its regionalist expression: a rich fusion of materials and complex, eccentric forms that demonstrate Di Castri’s interpretation of Wrightian motifs including horizontal planes, manipulated volumes and irregular geometry. He produced significant designs for offices, public spaces, university buildings and churches, including Oak Bay United Church. From 1958 to 1968 Di Castri served as chairman of the Community Planning Association of Canada, a service for which the City of Victoria recognized him, in 1971, with the award of honorary citizen. From 1976 to 1980 he was chairman of the Canadian Housing Design Council.
3225 Beach Drive also contributes to the gracious ambience of the Uplands neighbourhood. Formerly part of the Hudson's Bay Company's Uplands farm, this land was developed during the pre-First World War boom. John Charles Olmsted of the internationally recognized firm of landscape architects, Olmsted Brothers of Brookline, Massachusetts, designed Uplands as a subdivision for the wealthy. Curving streets, large estates, abundant landscaping, underground services, and architect-designed residences are the hallmark of this planned community, which was the first of its kind in Canada. Rigid building codes and landscape restrictions have maintained the pristine appearance of the area. The Uplands community has had a profound influence on planning for other subdivisions of large homes for wealthy clients.
District of Oak Bay Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of 3225 Beach Drive include its:
- setting amidst mature landscaping, with views across Haro Strait
- location, set well back from the road and almost hidden on the lot
- residential form, scale, and massing including a shallow-pitched hipped roof and clerestory in gable insert
- steel and timber post-and-beam construction, with wood and red Arizona sandstone cladding
- West Coast Modern style details such as deep angled eaves with integrated gutters, natural materials, extensive use of glass
- exterior architectural details such as two internal chimneys, courtyard and decorative balcony screen
- regular fenestration including fixed panes and butt-joint glazing
- interior elements such as inlaid woodwork in floors, decorative wooden beams, built-in bookcases, front door with inlaid details and diamond panes of coloured glass, varnished plywood walls, trays at the cornices, some lighting, and stonework matching that of the exterior
- landscape elements including pergolas, trellis, and terraced rear garden