- Years 1924-2020
- Architect (ret), FRAIC
- WCML Feature Masters of West Coast Modernism – 2017.09.12
Geoffrey Massey was born in London, England in 1924 to Margery Fremantle and Raymond Massey – the famous Canadian actor. Geoff followed his father to New England in 1936, and enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces after high school. On the Government’s offer of “land or education” for veterans, Geoff chose education: he graduated with a B.A. from Harvard College in 1949, and a Masters of Architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1952 (during Walter Gropius’ tenure). Geoff briefly practiced in Montreal before relocating to Vancouver.
In 1953, Geoff’s new life in Vancouver was marked by two new friendships: the first, with renowned artist, educator, and design advocate, B.C. Binning. The second was with Binning’s student, a young architect named Arthur Erickson, who would later become Geoff’s business partner, and who introduced him to a young woman named Ruth Killam. Ruth commissioned the two architects to design a home near Whytecliff Park, and Geoff and Ruth married upon the completion of this home in 1955. They raised their four children in an environment abound with art and architecture – a meld that was characteristic of the burgeoning West Coast Modern design culture.
From 1953 to 1957, while employed at Thompson Berwick & Pratt, Arthur and Geoff moonlighted on the designs of several houses that are synonymous with exemplary West Coast Modern design, including the Killam-Massey House (1955), Smith House I (1960), and the Graham House (1962). The distinguished partnership of Erickson/ Massey Architects was solidified in 1962 with the winning submission for Simon Fraser University. Under their vision and coordination, design and construction was completed with architects William R. Rhone & Randle Iredale; Zoltan Kiss; Duncan McNab, Harry Lee, and David Logan; and Robert F. Harrison. Erickson/ Massey would go on to create some of the west coast’s most iconic architecture until 1972. Simon Fraser University awarded Geoff an Honorary Doctor of Laws in 2016.
Geoff’s career has been guided by design ingenuity, appreciation of nature and context, and his entrepreneurial spirit. He played a pivotal role in the overall development of Hernando Island, designing several of its private residences including his family’s own cottage in 1973. In the 1970s, as an avid skier, he designed and developed ski chalets, resort lodges, and condominiums (a new living typology in its time), in the resort town of Whistler. Geoff served in the public realm as an Alderman with Vancouver City Council, a board member of the Greater Vancouver Regional District, and a Trustee for the Granville Island Trust. In 1978, Geoff formed the Coal Harbour Architectural Group with architects Procter LaMare and Wing Ting Leung, working on a number of residential, commercial, and institutional projects, including buildings for Expo ’86.
In a studio tucked away at his lush garden residence in West Vancouver, Geoff continued to do design work for family and friends until his passing in 2020.
Geoffrey was one of the founding directors of the West Coast Modern League – a role that he remained active in until his passing. We have been so grateful for his insight, guidance, generosity, good humour, and especially for our heartwarming and spirited conversations. We are tremendously saddened by his passing and his absence will be greatly felt. We offer our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and those who worked closely with him over the years.
Catton House, 1967, West Vancouver, BC
Craig House, 1967, Kelowna, BC
Graham Residence, 1964, West Vancouver, BC
Hernando Residence I, 1970’s, Hernando Island, BC
Hernando Residence II, 1970’s, Hernando Island, BC
Hernando Residence III, 1990’s, Hernando Island, BC
Killam-Massey House, 1955, West Vancouver, BC
Lethbridge University, 1968, Lethbridge, AB
MacMillan Bloedel Building, 1968, Vancouver, BC
Massey Residence, 1972, Whistler, BC
Massey Residence, 1973, Hernando Island, BC
Qualicum Residence, 1958, Qualicum, BC
Shannon Mews, 1971, Vancouver, BC – with Arthur Erickson
Simon Fraser University, 1962, Burnaby, BC
Ski Condominiums, 1977, Whistler, BC
Smith I House, 1960, West Vancouver, BC
Tantalus Lodge, 1960’s, Whistler, BC
Whistler Highlands Ski Condominiums, 1967, Whistler, BC
more to come…
Thompson Berwick & Pratt and Partners
Erickson/ Massey Architects
Coal Harbour Architectural Group
Geoffrey Massey (August 2017). Interview with Steve Gairns and Kim Smith.
Geoffrey Massey Personal Archives
The late Geoff Massey: a cultural icon at home on the North Shore. Adele Weder. December 19, 2020. North Shore News.
In Memoriam: Geoffrey Massey. Elsa Lam. December 14, 2020. Canadian Architect.
Pioneer of West Coast Modernism helped shape Vancouver culture. Adele Weder. December 11, 2020. The Globe and Mail.
West Coast architecture legend Geoffrey Massey dies at age 96. John Mackie. December 2, 2020. The Vancouver Sun.
Remembering SFU Architect Geoffrey Massey (1924-2020). December 2, 2020. Simon Fraser University.