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[Editor's note: Scroll through the photo gallery at the top to see the works and influences of Ron Thom.]

Long before the 100-Mile Diet and Lululemon, Vancouver wielded cultural influence over the rest of the nation in quite another way: through its architecture.

A powerful emissary of this movement was Vancouver architect Ron Thom. As well as a slate of landmark houses around the Vancouver region, he made his mark designing the iconic B.C. Electric head office building (now the Electra condominium tower) at Burrard Street and Nelson Avenue. Thom then garnered renown not just in Ontario but around the world for his design of Toronto's Massey College, Peterborough's Trent University, and the Shaw Festival Theatre on Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Now 27 years since his untimely passing at age 63, Thom is firmly ensconced in the pantheon of the greatest architects in Canadian history, and currently being celebrated in the exhibition project "Ron Thom and the Allied Arts," now at the West Vancouver Museum. The exhibition explores Thom's foundation at the Vancouver School of Art (he never went to architecture school) and his perennial drive to bring West Coast sensibilities to his work by deferring to nature whenever possible. The plywood-based exhibition design by Public: Architecture + Communication reflects Thom's love of raw wood and spatial complexity.

Thom's proclivities lay with the Mingei folk craft movement, finding higher beauty in the handmade. Whether in the rough-cut cedar of a budget bungalow or the one-off ceramics commissioned for a star client, Thom preferred artful irregularity to machine-like precision or the sterile white purity of Le Corbusier and his professional descendants. He designed more than a hundred houses in the Vancouver region and dozens of landmark projects in central Canada, advancing architecture into a different realm: not above the other arts, but a part of them.

"Ron Thom and the Allied Arts" is currently exhibiting at the West Vancouver Museum until Sept. 21. It will travel to Toronto's Gardiner Museum in February and to Peterborough's Trent University Gallery after that. On Sept. 7, the exhibition catalogue will be launched at the West Vancouver Museum; on Sept. 14, a panel of architectural minds (Tony Robins, Sherry McKay, Trevor Boddy and Matthew Soules; moderated by Adele Weder) will debate his legacy at Inform Interiors. These images offer a glimpse of Ron Thom's West Coast work, and the Ontario projects informed by it.  [Tyee]

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