Designation 101 Part 1 – Why did we designate?

Designation of a historic mid-century modern house in Calgary

We are very excited about our upcoming Provincial Designation ceremony, and thought we would put together some notes on the ‘designation journey’ of the Calgary Trend House. We’ve decided to break it into three parts: 1) Why did we decide to designate 2) Common designation myths and comments and 3) What was the actual process we went through.

Please note that the following are our thoughts and experiences only, and we are not speaking on behalf of any organization etc. There will be a related list of resources at the end of the series for more information, but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us at

Why did we designate?

Deciding to designate the Trend House was a decision that took a number of years. As we continued to uncover the history of the house, the context in which it was built, and started to engage with various preservation and historic resources, we quickly came to the realization that we were less owners of the house than stewards of it’s legacy, and as such, that we had an opportunity in front of us to ensure that this legacy was preserved. Here are the main reasons why we thought it was warranted:

  1. The house is unique. The house is not only a great example of mid-century modern residential architecture, but it is largely intact, which is unusual for a 60 year old structure. While we did make the decision to update the electrical and plumbing systems to modern standards, 80% or more of the house is exactly as it was when it was completed in 1954. There have been no modifications to the original design and layout – both inside and out. As such, it’s a clear and exact example of the architect’s original intent. Now, that’s not to say that the house is perfect – as in any 60+ year old house there are things that are chipped, peeling, drooping etc, but it is our feeling that heritage value is not solely dependent on the condition of the house.
  2. The house is part of a national story. The fact that the house was a part of a national program that was celebrated across the country in the mid 50s was a big part of the reason we decided to try and have it designated. We felt that the story of the Trend House Program as a whole was one that should be remembered and celebrated, and because this house was a part of that bigger story, it warranted designation.
  3. The house has local significance. Not only did the house have local impact when it was opened to the public in the spring of 1954, but the architect Peter Rule was responsible for a number of significant buildings in Calgary (Elveden Centre, McMahon Stadium, and many more).
  4. There is a clearly defined process. Whether a property is worthy of designation is not decided by the homeowner, but though a well  established process which is set up to clearly evaluate and articulate the potential historic value of a property, and to determine whether it can continue through the process.  The property owner is, however, the one who has the ability to decide whether or not to move ahead with the designation process once all those steps in the process are taken. We’ll describe the process we went through in part 3
  5. The house was (potentially) in jeopardy. We were lucky enough to come across the house and purchase it at a time in the market just before the area that it is located in began to be aggressively redeveloped, with original 50s bungalows being replaced with much larger modern houses. It was clear that given the chance to replace a relatively small, old house on a large lot, in a desirable community, it makes sense to tear it down and build something newer and bigger. We had also seen this happen in the case of the Montreal Trend House where, even though the fact that the house had historic value was not in dispute (even originally  with the new owners), the fact that it was not formally designated meant that nothing could be done when it was decided to demolish it. Of the original 11 houses built for the Trend House Program, there are only 3 or 4 remaining that are in a similar condition (and better) than the Calgary house, and this was a huge part of the decision to try and designate the house. 

So there you have the top 5 reasons we decided that we wanted to pursue designation for the Trend House. Next, we’ll talk in Part 2 about the Top Designation Myths.