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Barry Downs (architect)

Barry Downs

Barry Vance Downs

(1930-06-09)June 9, 1930
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
DiedJuly 20, 2022(2022-07-20) (aged 92)
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Alma mater
OccupationArchitect and urban planner

Barry Vance Downs OC (June 19, 1930 – July 20, 2022) was a Canadian architect and urban planner. He was known for his contributions to west coast modern architecture and for his works that blended buildings with their surrounding natural landscapes.

Early life

Downs was born on June 19, 1930, in Vancouver, British Columbia. His mother was a homemaker while his father was a sales executive. He grew up in West Point Grey neighborhood of the city and graduated from the Lord Byng Secondary School. During his time at the school, he was introduced to Art Phillips, who would later go on to become a mayor of the city of Vancouver, and also be one of Downs' clients.

After graduating, he enrolled in a commerce course at the University of British Columbia which he quit after two years. He then moved to Seattle and studied architecture at the University of Washington. During his time at the university, he was influenced by the architectural and design themes of minimalism advanced by architects such as the German-American Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.


Downs returned to Vancouver after getting his degree in 1954. He started out as an apprentice at Thompson Berwick and Pratt and Partners, a prominent architecture and design firm in the city. During his time there, he was introduced to other architects including Ronald Thom, Doug Shadbolt, and Freddy Hollingsworth, shaping his early views of west coast modern architecture. Themes of his work during this stage included moving away from design ideas of austerity. While he did not move away from the ideas of minimalism, he was introduced to the addition of 'organic texture and form'.

He undertook an architectural tour around the world along with his wife in 1956 visiting landmarks including Frank Lloyd Wright's houses in Oak Park, Illinois and the Johnson Wax Headquarters in Wisconsin, before traveling to Europe to see Le Corbusier's Unité d'habitation residential buildings in Marseille, France. These radical architectural examples further led him towards modernist architecture.

Downs partnered with Hollingsworth between 1963 and 1967 before starting his DA Architects + Planners with Richard Archambault in 1969. Downs has been noted for advancing the use of understated exteriors allowing for that natural flow of space that has since been a characteristic of architecture in the Pacific Northwest.

Downs received the Order of Canada in 2014 for his contributions to architecture. The citation specifically lauded his contributions to the West Coast Modernist style of architecture and his works that blended buildings and their surrounding natural landscape. He was also a member of the City of Vancouver's civic design and heritage panel.

Personal life

Downs married Mary Stewart in 1955. The couple had met a few years earlier in Bowen Island, an island off the coast of Vancouver. The couple had two children  – a son and a daughter. Downs died on July 20, 2022, aged 92.

Select works


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