Historic Joy Kogawa House Society plans to renovate Vancouver childhood home of acclaimed author

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      The City of Vancouver has received an application to renovate the childhood home of acclaimed author Joy Kogawa.

      The planned modifications are intended to facilitate the expansion of the cultural role of the heritage residence.

      Merrick Architecture filed an application for a development permit.

      In a design rationale document, the architectural firm related that it was retained by the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society (HJKHS).

      “As a childhood home of Joy Kogawa, the house has historical and cultural significance as one of the few documented residences in Vancouver that was confiscated from Japanese Canadians, including Joy’s family, and sold by the Canadian Government to pay for the operation of internment camps for Japanese Canadians during World War II,” Merrick Architecture principal Mitch Sakumoto wrote.

      The Marpole neighbourhood home was built in 1912.

      Merrick Architecture noted that the property located at 1450 West 64th Avenue is owned by the City of Vancouver.

      It is operated on the city’s behalf by HJKHS.

      The plan includes a suite inside the house for a writer-in-residence program as well as the conversion of the garage into a writer’s suite.

      Meeting spaces on both levels of the house for public use also form part of the proposed renovations.

      Likewise contemplated is “landscaping to enhance the property while respecting the original memories of Joy Kogawa complete with an outdoor meeting / gathering area for special events”.

      The HJKHS submitted an operational letter as part of the development application.

      The nonprofit noted that “current occupancy and zoning allows use only as a residence for visiting writers”.

      “To expand capacity and build on our well-respected program of writing workshops, literary events, and author residencies, a zoning change is required to allow assembly use, including book launches, anti-racism workshops, networking events for writers of colour and LGBTQ2+, and more events for the literary community, parents, teachers, and youth,” HJKHS explained.

      The group is eyeing an “expanded program of literary events and writing workshops”.

      The program includes  book launch space rentals, community rentals for meetings, third-party rentals for family events such as weddings and anniversaries, regular visiting hours for tourism visitors, enhanced Japanese Canadian internment history programming, book club about racism and racial equality, and the provision of anti-racism materials.

      The group recalled that Kogawa and her family moved to the Vancouver home in 1937.

      Kogawa authored Obasan, a celebrated 1981 novel about the experience of Japanese-Canadians during World War 2.