New book celebrates Nelson’s modernist era of architecture
Much has been written about Nelson’s historic buildings, but designer and history enthusiast Peter Bartl saw a gap—and decided it was time to fill it. The result is an architectural survey within a beautifully designed book entitled The Modern Heritage of Nelson Architecture from the 1920s to the 1960s, launching Thursday, November 2 at 7pm at the Nelson Public Library.
“So far, the recorded architectural history of Nelson mainly recognizes the heritage value of buildings from the period before World War 1, generally known as the Victorian tradition,” explains Bartl. “This book documents architecturally interesting buildings in and around Nelson built during this later period that can be classified as Modernist, Art Deco, or Mission Revival.”
The introduction describes the history of the architecture and short biographies of significant local architects and builders, including contractor A.H. Green, the architects F.W. Williams and his wife Ilsa Williams, and D. Fairbanks. A selection of archival photographs and drawings along with current photos offer new insights, and maps are included to encourage self-guided tours.
Among the buildings featured are the Capitol Theatre, the Terrace Apartments, the Medical Arts Building on Baker, the Civic Centre, the Chrysler Dealership on Hendryx, and the old Scandinavian Church.
“These buildings are the physical fabric of the community. By emphasizing the historical importance of our more recent past, we recognize the personal stories as well as the need to preserve the collective memory of this era,” says Bartl. “A book is a lasting record for the future.”
Bartl is a long-time graphic designer and a former professor of visual communications at the University of Alberta. His interest in history led him to teach courses in the history of communications, typography, graphic design, and printing. An interest in printmaking and the book arts resulted in the establishment of PB+J Press that created handmade books and letterpress prints. His wife Jane Merks designed the book, which is produced and published by PB+J Studio.
The launch includes a presentation by Bartl about the life and legacy of Mount St. Francis architect Ilsa J. Williams.