Designation 101 Part 3 – The designation process

Designation of a historic mid-century modern house in Calgary

For this last part, I’d like to talk about the process that we went through to receive the designation for the Calgary Trend House. Each property’s journey is unique but we are hoping that this narrative will help shed some light on the process from our perspective. If you are interested in going down the road yourself, a great place to start is by contacting a local heritage organization for more help and resources. Here in Calgary, the Calgary Heritage Initiative was very helpful as were the incredibly dedicated folks at Heritage Planning Department at the City of Calgary.

Please note that the following are our thoughts and experiences only, and we are not speaking on behalf of any organization etc. There are a number of links in this article for more information, but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us at

The designation process (for the Calgary Trend House)

Discovery & Research

The whole thing really started with the discovery that the house had been architect designed, which was one of the things the realtor mentioned to us, showing us a photocopy of a front elevation drawing of the house which had the name of the architect (Peter Rule) on it, as well as the title “Calgary Trend House”. As we were upgrading some systems on the house before we moved in, we started to do some research at the Canadian Architectural Archives at the University of Calgary, and discovered that the firm Rule, Wynn, Rule were one of the most influential architectural firms in Alberta, especially post world war 2, as well as getting a full set of blueprints for the house.

More online research especially using Google Books, led to a mention of the house  in a book by Robert Stamp called “Suburban Modern – Post war dreams in Calgary“, that briefly discussed the house as being a part of a national program sponsored by an organization called “West Coast Woods”.  Shortly after that, we decided to document the house and what we were discovering on a website called “The Trend House Chronicles”. Eventually, someone reached out to say that they had a copy of the original Trend House brochure, and were generous enough to send scans of all the pages to us, and we finally had a clear overview of the program and the houses in it.

Designation Tip: Research your home and discover it’s history: locally / municipally / provincially / nationally. Calgary Heritage Initiative has a great section on researching your home.

The Municipal Inventory

The property received interest from the Calgary Heritage Authority, who had engaged Donald Luxton and Associates to provide the City with an overview of potentially significant post-war properties dated from 1945 – 70s. The team came across the website and reached out, and as a result we spent some time with Donald’s team going through the house, photographing it and sharing with them everything we had found out about the house and the program up to that time. 

The result was that a Statement of Significance was created, based on the CHA’s guidelines, which basically outlines the property’s unique physical details, as well as it’s historical value. This is the foundational document for moving forward with the designation process, and the result of having this created was that the property was listed on the City’s Inventory of Evaluated Historical Resources

Municipal Designation Process

Once the property was listed on the City’s Inventory of Evaluated Historical Resources, the next step was to consider whether we wanted to pursue municipal designation. Through the evaluation process that led to the creation of the Statement of Significance, we had been in touch with the City’s Heritage Planning department, and after the SoS was created we entered into conversation with the City to understand exactly what designation might cover and what it would mean for us and future homeowners.

Together we had many discussions regarding which elements of the house were the ones that made sense to include in the designation bylaw, which took into account the findings from the SoS, but also reflected any concerns that we had as homeowners from the standpoint of being sensitive to things that future owners may want to change, (without losing the integrity of the property). The result was a tailored list of elements that we thought made sense to preserve, including:

  • The public elevation for the front of the house, which included things like the garage, the size, style and arrangement of the glass areas.
  • Generally speaking, around the house the siding, window configuration, the stamped details in the concrete foundations are all protected.
  • Inside, the protected elements include the original room layout, the cedar ceiling and brick fireplace mass, the built-in sideboard / planter as well as the Sylvaply walls in the dining room and kitchen.

You can see a draft of the bylaw here. Once we were happy with the draft of the bylaw, it went to City Council for a vote and in January 2015, Council voted unanimously to adopt the bylaw and the Calgary Trend House was officially granted a Municipal Historic Designation.

Provincial Designation Process

During the course of getting the house a municipal designation, we had been in contact with the Historic Resources branch of the Alberta government, primarily to investigate the possibility of getting some reimbursement for restoration work under various provincial programs. During the course of those discussions, the question came up whether we would consider pursuing a provincial designation.

The thing that eventually pushed us forward with pursuing a provincial designation was the influence that the architect, Peter Rule, and his firm (Rule, Wynn, Rule) had in shaping the architecture of Alberta from the 50s to the 70s and beyond.  

The documentation that we had created for the municipal designation was the foundation of the information that we submitted to the Province, with really the only addition being the application form which had an additional focus on what components of the site had Provincial connections.

The applications are reviewed a couple of times a year, and if it’s deemed actionable, a notice is sent to the MLA and an intent to designate notice is placed on the Alberta Gazette for public notice. The public has 30 days to provide any input to the government regarding the intent to designate. Sixty days from that notice, if no objections are received, the order to designate is prepared and the Minister signs it and it’s done!

More information can be viewed here.

In Conclusion…

For us, the journey to designate the Calgary Trend House has been an interesting one, forcing us to really think about our position regarding the protection of built heritage, and to consider the pros and the (sometimes made up) cons of the commitment.

In the end, we realize that we are fortunate enough to have become stewards of a house that, while very humble, had and has some incredible connections to the rise of modern architecture in Alberta, and in Canada. The more we learned about the house, it’s materials, construction, and the program it was a part of, the more we realized that it’s a structure that represents not only a specific period of time and style (Mid-Century Modern), but also a unique function (the house of tomorrow, featuring new uses for Canadian materials and Design).

The fact that it had been largely unaltered, and that it is an extremely livable space even by today’s standards, led us to decide that protecting the key elements of this property would be the only right thing to do, so the house can continue to physically tell it’s story for decades to come.

That’s the long and the short of it, we hope that this series of articles have been useful, and if you are living in a property that has some historic interest or value that you consider whether pursuing the designation process is right for you.