Beyond heritage: new book celebrates Victoria architecture

Inclusion of modern buildings aims to spark debate

Writing about heritage treasures in Victoria is nothing new for Nick Russell.

The former president of the Hallmark Society was senior editor of the four-volume This Old House, a series featuring the neighbourhoods of Victoria.

His new book, however, aims to broaden the scope of what qualifies as attention-worthy.

“I’m trying to open a debate about what makes architecture important,” says Russell, taking a break from a full day of delivering his book to bookstores around town. “I’ve raised the question in the beginning of the book, how do you judge?”

Rather than sticking with registered heritage houses, or those built by famous architects, he uses a more subjective criteria.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There’s nothing to say that a particular style is the best style,” he explains.

Neither does he limit himself to a particular time period, and some of his more modern choices are sure to raise some contention.

For instance, a boxy 2011 home on Despard Avenue has drawn criticism from the Rockland Community Association. But Russell welcomes the debate in his decision to include it.

Some houses from recent decades are very innovative, he says. “The question is, should we be protecting them for the future?”

Hot off the press, the book is called Glorious Victorians: 150 Years – 150 Houses. Celebrating residential architecture in British Columbia’s Capital.

As well as being on time for Christmas, the self-published book also comes out on time for the city’s 150th anniversary.

The problem is, Russell couldn’t confine himself to the 150-theme. In driving “practically every street in the city” on his house hunt, he ended up featuring 200.

“You get 50 for free,” he jokes.