Charles B.K. Van Norman fonds

Charles B.K. Van Norman fonds

Part of


  • Charles B.K. Van Norman (creator)
  • Charles B.K. Van Norman (archive creator)


Charles B.K. Van Norman fonds

Dates of creation

[ca. 1942-1967]


  • archives

Level of archival description


Extent and Medium

  • 65 photographs
  • 17 drawings
  • 7 reprographic copies
  • 3 textual records
  • 2 albums
  • 1 negative
  • 1 panel

Scope and Content

The Charles B.K. Van Norman fonds consists of 65 photographs and 2 albums of photographs, 24 drawings (including 7 reprographic copies), 1 presentation panel, 1 negative and 3 textual records. The material ranges in date from ca. 1942 to 1967, and shows the variety of building types that Van Norman designed, primarily for corporate and government clients, through the busiest period of his career.

Although no drawings of the numerous custom-built residences by Van Norman are in the fonds, his own house, considered a notable example of early modernist work in Vancouver is represented in 22 photographs. Also in the fonds are documents related to Van Norman's intense interest in prefabricated, low-cost housing, an urgent government and modernist concern during the war years. Included in the prefab house designs for the Precision Housing Company and the CMHC, is a photograph of the experimental hexagonal Loxtave house unit invented by Van Norman.

Of the work outside of Vancouver, photographs illustrate some of the buildings Van Norman produced for the new post-war town development at Powell River, B.C. between 1942-1953, as well as drawings for later housing proposals for the site in the 1960s. Two unrealized projects from the late 1950s relate to Toronto - an interesting photo album booklet records the architect's entry into the important competition for Toronto City Hall in 1958, and colour photos of presentation drawings illustrate a proposal for a high-rise tower at Bay and Front Sts, on the site now occupied by the Royal Bank Plaza constructed 1972-1976 by the Webb, Zerafa, Menkes, Housden Partnership.

For Vancouver, two of Van Norman's most significant large buildings from the late 1950s are included in the inventory. Photographs of the Canada Customs Building show a model of one of the many original schemes from 1949-1950, construction views from 1954, and interior and exterior views of the building after completion. Designed at the same time as the Canada Customs Building, and similar to it in certain formal aspects, the Burrard Building office block is represented by a series of presentation drawings, and a promotional photo album showing drawings and model, and a publicity leaflet.

Reference Number



Materials were arranged into 24 series by project. Projects are roughly ordered by project year.

Biographical notes


Meaford, Ontario, 1906 - Vancouver, British Columbia, 1975

Charles B.K. Van Norman studied at the University of Manitoba school of architecture, Winnipeg, from 1924-1928, while working summers in the office of Winnipeg architect A.A. Stoughton. Upon graduation, Van Norman joined the Vancouver firm of Townley & Matheson, founded his own practice in 1930, but also worked for McCarter & Nairne in 1935. During the war, he organized the Precision Housing Company in 1944 to design and manufacture prefabricated housing in Canada and for Britain. In 1955, C.B.K. Van Norman and Associates was founded, and later architect Ojars Kalns became a partner with Van Norman.

Conditions governing access

  • Access by appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction

  • For copyright information or permission to reproduce material from the fonds, please contact the CCA (reproductions@cca.qc.ca).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

  • Gift of Ojars Kalns in 1998.

Custodial history

The Charles B.K. Van Norman 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 Charles B.K. Van Norman 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.

Credit line

When citing the collection as a whole, use the citation: Charles B.K. Van Norman fonds, Collection Centre Canadien d’Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal. When citing specific collection material, please refer to the object’s specific credit line.

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 Charles B.K. Van Norman, and on the projects in the fonds.

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