Douglas C. Simpson fonds

Douglas C. Simpson fonds

Part of


  • Douglas C. Simpson (creator)
  • Douglas C. Simpson (archive creator)


Douglas C. Simpson fonds

Dates of creation

1938-1992, [predominant ca. 1940-ca. 1960]


  • archives

Level of archival description


Extent and Medium

  • 94 drawings
  • 83 photographs
  • 22 reprographic copies
  • 3 portfolios
  • 1 album
  • 1 textual record
  • 1 videocassette

Scope and Content

The Douglas C. Simpson fonds consists of 116 drawings (including 22 reprographic copies), 83 photographs, 4 albums and portfolios, 1 textual record, and 1 videocassette. The material dates from 1938-1992, with the bulk of the documents ranging from ca. 1940 to ca. 1960.

All of the drawings in the inventory, by Simpson and others, date from the 1940s, with the exception of Simpson's 1938 graduation thesis project: a Beaux-arts planned City Hall for Winnipeg. The rest of the architectural drawings are mostly residential projects from early in Simpson's career in Ottawa, or work in the later 1940s just after he arrived in B.C. These later drawings include as-built working plans and elevations for Simpson's first house that he constructed for his family in Vancouver. The furniture designs by Simpson include examples from the early 1940s, and molded plywood furniture by Simpson and A.J. Donahue for the National Research Council in Ottawa designed just after the war.

The photographs and photograph albums in the fonds are primarily of architectural projects by the firm of Semmens & Simpson, dating from 1948-ca. 1958. Most notable amongst the photos are those by Graham Warrington, a British-born photographer who came to Canada in 1949. Before he left for Toronto in 1958, Warrington produced a significant body of images in publications and portfolios that heightened awareness of West Coast architecture across the country.

Reference Number


Biographical notes


Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1916 - Honolulu, Hawaii, 1967

Douglas C. Simpson began studies at the University of Manitoba in 1933, graduating with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1938. Over the next decade he began directing a project for a prefabricated panel system for the National Research Council in Ottawa, served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the war, and became chief architect of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Commission regional office. Moving to Vancouver in 1948, Simpson joined Harold Semmens to form the office of Semmens Simpson. In 1957, Simpson left the firm to pursue a private practice first in Vancouver, where he designed the Bayshore Hotel in 1959-1960, then in Hawaii, Fiji and Australia. Simpson became a member of the Ontario Association of Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in 1942, and a Member of the Architectural Institute of British Columbia in 1948. He also became a Member of the Association of Canadian Industrial Designers in 1946.

The prolific firm of Semmens Simpson was one of the most important architectural offices working in post-war Vancouver. The firm was awarded Massey Medals for Architecture in 1952, a gold for the Marwell Office Building, Vancouver (built 1951, demolished), and a silver in 1955 for the B.C. Sugar Corporation Building, Vancouver (built 1954-1955). Amongst the firm's most significant work are buildings for the Vancouver Public Library, including the Collingwood Branch Library (completed 1951), and the main branch building (completed 1957), which was recently rehabilitated into television studios, and a retail store and restaurant.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

  • The Douglas C. Simpson fonds was acquired for the exhibition "The New Spirit: Modern Architecture in Vancouver, 1938-1963". The exhibition was organized by the CCA and presented at the CCA in 1997, the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1997-1998, and the Nickle Arts Museum, Calgary, in 1998.

Archivist's note

  • The Douglas C. Simpson fonds was originally processed and described by David Rose in 1998. In 2009, the original finding aid was modified, by Alexis Lenk, in order to conform to updated documentation procedures.

General note

  • The publication "The New Spirit: Modern Architecture in Vancouver 1938-1963", by Rhodri Windsor-Liscombe, which accompanied the exhibition of the same name, was used as a source for some of the information on the architect Douglas C. Simpson, and on the projects in the fonds.

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