top of page



Marianne Lisa Amodio

MA+HG Architects, Inc.

Vancouver, BC, Canada

July 2021


Marianne Lisa Amodio (Principal Architect), Harley Grusko (Principal Architect)


Lindsey Nette (Project Designer / Manager), Reece Terris (General Contractor), Dino Spicak (General Contractor), Carlos Chui (Structural Engineer), Joseph Fry (Landscape Architect


Mira Malatestinic


Janis Nicolay


The primary need was to create homes for the Owner and her mother to co-live and age-in-place, supported by the community catalyzed through the densification of the site. The heritage home was thus converted to two units - one fully accessible directly from grade - and a three-unit infill building was added at the rear of the site.
Architectonically, the desire was to activate interaction within and between the two buildings. The architectural parti of the infill was thus conceived as a series of individual houses coming together to form a shared community. The skew of the main gables of the infill was purposeful, both as a gesture towards view and away from neighbours, as a gesture towards privacy, creating a tension between seeing and being seen. Meanwhile, the heritage building stands as its counterpoint, lovingly restored to its era with a few artful liberties. The courtyard between and beside the two buildings, was designed as a de facto stage for community gathering, a space for art exhibits and performances and an incidental place of interaction for residents.
Finally, it was important to the Owner to create an expressive and sculptural piece of new Architecture alongside a modern and highly detailed restoration. Both endeavours were seen as art. The materiality of the project employs modest, robust and no-nonsense finishes for longevity, modesty and contextual fit, while the nature of both the modern and historical construction detailing required the deft and caring hand of the General Contractor, TerrisCo.


Vancouver’s earliest neighbourhood, Strathcona, is characterized by its unique and diverse building typologies, its enduring grassroots social activism and its recognition as a welcoming place for immigrants, artists, and eccentrics. Slated for demolition in the 1950s for tracts of social housing, blocks of heritage fabric were razed before being halted by activists. The eclectic nature of the fabric that remains - ornate dwellings with corner stores, tall rowhouses, converted stables - is prized by the community.
The existing home on the site, built in 1898, played a part in this storied history: murderers, gamblers and scandalous unmarried couples all resided there, and the building’s Edwardian style with Victorian turret eludes categorization. The building’s quirky siting, with the home justified to one side of the property - its entry porch facing the side yard, rather than the street - lends to the peculiarity of the site. “The Big House”, elevated high above the sidewalk on the busiest bicycleway in Vancouver, is recognized as a prominent part of the streetscape.
Additionally, the zoning allows for bonus density to construct an infill building, in exchange for the restoration of a heritage building. The intent of this policy is to increase affordability while ensuring tangible heritage retention. By avoiding tabula rasa, these densification policies remain one of the few in Vancouver whose implementation is generally unopposed. That the community here values socio-economic diversity, welcomes density that improves affordability, and embraces a bit of weirdness, foretold the potential for an impactful and meaningful Architecture.


The aspirations of the project provided a platform to develop our principles of “Social Density”: the creation of Architecture as a methodology for catalyzing community, as a means of artful expression and as a modality of living that is multigenerational, interactive and sociable.
These principles were unexpectedly and ardently tested in the days of Covid, when physical distancing was still required. The planning of the buildings allowed the Owner, her mother, the residents and invited guests to interact safely, providing social connection at a time of isolation. The Owner remarks that, despite distancing protocols, she never felt lonely during this time. The “Social Density” experiment has continued in post-pandemic times, with almost-constant congregation: artist exhibitions, political gatherings and dining events that span indoors and out.
For the Owner, the planning of the buildings themselves has been of benefit to aging-in-place. The unit plans were designed to accommodate privacy at different floors, a suite within a suite concept with a bedroom and bathroom always provided for at grade. This has allowed for the Owner and her mother to make use of different rooms in post-surgery scenarios, for example, with the added bonus of encouraging long-term accommodation for guests.
Artistically, the two buildings create a Tschumian ‘in-between space’ that creates a joyous and delightful dialogue between old and new that is felt even by the passerby. The Owner notes that one of her greatest pleasures is the ongoing engagement with the public who love to talk about, photograph and be around the building.

bottom of page