Twizell, Robert Percival Sterling

TWIZELL, Robert Percival Sterling (1875-1964), of Vancouver, B.C. was the older brother of George S. Twizell, and was active in the following partnerships:

Twizell & Twizell, Vancouver, 1912-14
Twizell, Birds & Twizell, Vancouver, 1920-21
Twizell & Twizell, Vancouver, 1924-51

Born in Newcastle-on-Tyne on 25 June 1879, he was educated at Rutherford College in that city, and later enrolled in courses in architecture at the Science College of Durham University in 1899-1903. After leaving school, he followed the same path as his brother, articling with the local firm of Hicks & Charlewood, Architects, then worked for Stephen Piper in Newcastle. From 1903 to 1908 he held the post of Lecturer at Durham University while continuing to work as a part-time assistant in the local office of Hicks & Charlewood. He was a knowledgeable and well-informed architect and historian, and wrote an extensive illustrated essay in 1905 called "The Evaluation of Domestic Architecture" in which he analysed English country house design from the 12th to 18th Century (R.I.B.A. Journal [London], xii, 24 June 1905, 537-48, illus.)

It is likely that his younger brother, who had emigrated to Canada in May 1906, played a part in persuading Robert P.S. to join him in Vancouver in 1908. Robert opened his own office there, and periodically received some assistance from his brother George who, at this time, had a full time job in the office of C.O. Wickenden in 1908-11. Both brothers then formed a partnership, and opened an office under their own name in 1912. Their professional activity was interrupted by WWI, and when they re-opened their office in 1920, they were joined by Samuel B. Birds as a new partner. Their collaboration was brief, and after Birds departed, both of the Twizell brothers were once again operating on their own, and they continued to work together until after 1950.

R.P.S. Twizell had a long-standing interest in the rich history of English architecture, and for his educational buildings in Vancouver he favoured the Edwardian and Tudor Revival styles. His most impressive designs for school buildings are those on the campus of Vancouver College in Shaughnessy Heights. His design for McCormack Hall (1927) is a finely proportioned essay in the Tudor style, with exquisitely detailed facades and an attention to scholarly composition which is rare to find in the west coast region. His masterpiece must surely be that for St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, Vancouver (1929-33), a refined modern Gothic work that can rightly be considered as one of the finest ecclesiastical works in western Canada, matched only by comparable work for significant church designs by other Canadian architects such as H.L. Fetherstonhaugh or Henri S. Labelle of Montreal, or Henry Sproatt of Toronto.

The advances in progressive architectural design in Canada after WWII did not impress Robert Twizell, who wrote a lengthy essay on the austerity and bleakness of the Modern Movement, and he decried the commercialization of the art of architecture (R.A.I.C. Journal, xxxiv, February 1957, 63-4). He also complained that modern architecture “has no grammar, no characteristic features, and conforms to no definite concept or rules”.

Twizell was elected as an Associate member of the Royal Inst. of British Architects in London in 1900, but he resigned from that organization in 1934. He was reinstated as a full member in 1950, and the following year, in 1951, he was elected as a Fellow of the R.I.B.A. Twizell died at Victoria, B.C. on 7 December 1964 (death notice Vancouver Sun, 10 Dec. 1964, 46; biog. and port. in Who’s Who in Western Canada, 1911, 368; Who’s Who in Canada, 1923-24, 390; 1947-48, 1350; inf. Architectural Inst. of British Columbia; inf. Royal Inst. of British Architects, London; R.I.B.A., Directory of British Architects 1834-1914, 2001, Vol. ii, 852; Donald Luxton, Building The West: The Early Architects of British Columbia, 2003, 314-17, with list of works, 522). The City of Vancouver Archives holds a collection of original architectural drawings and blueprint copies and papers related to the work of Twizell & Twizell from 1927 to 1951 (Acc. 166).


(works in Vancouver unless noted)

ST. GEORGE'S ANGLICAN CHURCH, Laurel Street at 14th Avenue West, 1910 (dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
KITSILANO, St. Mark's Anglican Church, Larch Street at 2nd Avenue, 1911 (Province [Vancouver], 14 Feb. 1911, 8; C.R., xxv, 1 March 1911, 26)
BURNABY, B.C., 'Fairacres', a mansion and stables for Henry T. Ceperley, Deer Lake Avenue, 1911; now the Burnaby Art Gallery (City of Burnaby, Deer Lake Park: Heritage Resource Inventory, 1998, 21-24, illus. & descrip.; inf. Jim Wolf, Burnaby; Charles C. Hill, edit., Artists, Architects & Artisans - Canadian Art 1890-1918, 2013, 120-21, illus. & descrip.)
VICTORIA, B.C., St. John's Anglican Church, Quadra Street at Mason Street, 1912 (C.R., xxvi, 3 Jan. 1912, 65, t.c.)
SHAUGHNESSY HEIGHTS, residence for Dr. Wilson Herald, Selkirk Avenue at Balfour Avenue East, 1911 (Vancouver Daily World, 10 Jan. 1911, 16, t.c.)
KITSILANO, residence for Dr. Arthur L. Johnson, Fourth Avenue at Balsam Street, 1912 (Province [Vancouver], 13 April 1912, 30, illus. & descrip.)
LAURIER AVENUE, near Hudson Street, residence for D.J. McPhail, 1912 (Province [Vancouver], 15 June 1912, 27)


CEDAR CRESCENT, near Cypress Street, residence for Hon. M.P. Morris, 1914 (Pacific Coast Architect (San Francisco), vi, Jan. 1914, 477)
QUEEN MARY PUBLIC SCHOOL, Trimble Street at University Avenue, 1914 (C.R., xxviii, 30 Sept. 1914, 66; xxix, 2 June 1915, 590, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)


SOUTH VANCOUVER, High School, between 43rd Avenue West and 45th Avenue West, in the Marpole neighbourhood, 1920-21 (C.R., xxxiv, 21 July 1920, 53, t.c.; Vancouver Daily World, 19 March 1921, 26, descrip.; 14 June 1921, 13)
PENTICTON, B.C., St. Saviours Anglican Church, 1920-21 (Vancouver Daily World, 26 Nov. 1920, 2, descrip.; C.R., xxxiv, 8 Dec. 1920, 1180)
SHAUGHNESSY PUBLIC SCHOOL, Marguerite Street at King Edward Avenue, 1920 (D. Franklin, Early School Architecture in British Columbia, 1980, 149, illus.)
EDITH CAVELL PUBLIC SCHOOL, 20th Avenue West at Tupper Street, 1920 (D. Franklin, Early School Architecture in British Columbia, 1980, 149, illus.)
SUMMERLAND, B.C., warehouse for the Okanagan Fruit Growers Association, 1921 (C.R., xxxv, 6 April 1921, 58, t.c.)
SOUTH VANCOUVER, Richard McBride Public School, East 29th Avenue at Culloden Street, 1921 (Vancouver Daily World, 9 July 1921, 26, t.c.; burned 1929; and later rebuilt; dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
DAVID LLOYD GEORGE PUBLIC SCHOOL, Cartier Avenue at 67th Avenue West, Marpole, 1921 (Vancouver Daily World, 22 Sept. 1921, 3, descrip.; 26 Oct. 1921, 15, illus. & descrip.; C.R., xxxvi, 5 April 1922, 12, illus. in advert.; R.A.I.C. Journal, iv, Nov. 1927, 408-09, 412, illus. & descrip.)
KERRISDALE SCHOOL NO. 2, Carnarvon Street at 41st Avenue West, 1921 (dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
BIDWELL STREET, at Comox Street, a terrace of eight houses for the Co-Operative Building Co., 1922 (Vancouver Daily World, 8 March 1922, 14, illus. & descrip.)


VANCOUVER ROMAN CATHOLIC COLLEGE, 38th Avenue West at Hudson Street, 1924 (R.A.I.C. Journal, v, Dec. 1928, 424-9, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
LORD KITCHENER PUBLIC SCHOOL, Blenheim Street at King Edward Avenue, 1924 (Vancouver Daily World, 4 March 1924, 2, descrip.; dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
STANLEY PARK, an outdoor memorial to American President Warren G. Harding (died August 1923), with statue and outdoor seating, 1924-25 (Winnipeg Daily Tribune, 26 Dec. 1924, 6, illus.)
TALTON MANOR APARTMENTS, 15th Avenue West near Cypress Street, 1925 (dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
CANADIAN MEMORIAL UNITED CHURCH, 16th Avenue West at Burrard Street, 1927-28 (R.A.I.C. Journal, vi, May 1929, 172-7, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
KIMBERLEY, B.C., United Church, c. 1930 (dwgs. at United Church Archives, Toronto)
BURNABY, B.C., West Burnaby United Church, Sussex Avenue, c. 1930 (dwgs. at United Church Archives, Toronto)
BURNABY, B.C., Willingdon Heights United Church, Parker Street, c. 1930 (dwgs. at United Church Archives, Toronto)
OBLATE FATHERS PROVINCIAL HOUSE, 8th Avenue West at Maple Street, 1930 (dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
CHRIST CHURCH ANGLICAN CATHEDRAL, West Georgia Street at Burrard Street, major addition and alterations, 1930 (dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
ST. ANDREW'S-WESLEY UNITED CHURCH, Nelson Street at Burrard Street, 1931-33 (C.R., xlv, 15 July 1931, 847; R.A.I.C. Journal, xi, Jan. 1934, 2, 4-5, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
ST. MICHAEL'S ANGLICAN CHURCH, East Broadway near Prince Edward Street, 1932 (Province [Vancouver], 10 Sept. 1932, 4, descrip.; dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C., St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Royal Avenue at Fourth Street, 1937 (J.D. Scott, Once in the Royal City: The Heritage of New Westminster, 1985, 135)
CHILLIWACK, B.C., Junior High School, facing the Trans-Canada Highway, 1938-39 (Chilliwack Progress, 14 Sept. 1938, 1)
WEST POINT GREY UNITED CHURCH, Tolmie Street at 8th Avenue West, 1938-39 (dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
ST. PHILLIPS ANGLICAN CHURCH, 27th Avenue West at Alma Street, 1941 (dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
CHILLIWACK, B.C., Junior-Senior High School, Yale Road at William Street, 1944 (Chilliwack Progress, 26 April 1944, 1)
KNOX UNITED CHURCH, 41st Avenue West at Balaclava Street, 1947 (dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
BLESSED SACRAMENT ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, Heather Street near 15th Avenue West, 1948 (dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)
ST. GILES UNITED CHURCH, 41st Avenue West at Elizabeth Street, 1949 (dwgs. at Vancouver City Archives)


VANCOUVER, B.C., University of British Columbia Campus, Point Grey, 1912. The young firm of Twizell & Twizell, working with Van Siclen & Macomber, were one of 20 offices who submitted a design in this national competition (UBC Archives, List of Competitors, 14 Nov. 1912). The original drawing by Twizell for this competition is held at the City of Vancouver Archives, Acc. 166. Their proposal was not included in the list of 4 finalists, and Sharp & Thompson were later declared as the winners.
OTTAWA, ONT., Departmental Buildings, Wellington Street, 1914. The firm of Twizell & Twizell were one of 62 architectural firms from the British Commonwealth who submitted design for this major government complex (NAC, RG11, Vol. 2952, File 5370 1B, list of competitors). WWI Intervened, and the project was never built. It took nine years before 6 finalists were offered financial compensation for their effort, but this list did not include the Twizell brothers.
VANCOUVER, B.C., Canadian Memorial Church, West 16th Avenue, 1922. R.P.S. Twizell was one of 13 architects who submitted plans for this Vancouver landmark (Vancouver Daily World, 4 July 1922, 9). He received the Third Premium for his scheme. The winner was McCarter, Nairne & Co., with Robert Chadney.