Mid-Century Architecture in Victoria From the University of Victoria Special Collections and University Archives

John Di Castri

John Di Castri high-jumping at Victoria High School

John Albert Di Castri was born 26 July 1924 in Victoria. Di Castri attended Victoria High School (Class of ’42) although he left in the spring of 1941 to start working. (Some of his resumes also say he left in the spring of 1942.) After having been turned down for military service, Di Castri began in April 1941 articling as a draughtsman under Henry Whittaker, Chief Architect of the B.C. Department of Public Works. He stayed in this role until June 1946. From July 1947 to July 1948 he worked as a draughtsman for the new firm Birley Wade and Stockdill. It was during this time that Di Castri contacted architect Bruce Goff (1904-1982), who was teaching at the University of Oklahoma. Di Castri was accepted to study under Goff at the University, and in September 1948 he and his new wife Paddy moved to Oklahoma. For the 1948-49 school year Di Castri studied as a special student at U Oklahoma. During the summer of 1949 he worked as a staff architect for Goff, and for the 1949-50 school year worked as a design instructor at the university.

Letter from Goff to Di Castri, 14 July 1948

In the fall of 1950 the Di Castris returned to Victoria, and that year he began a practice with F. W. Nichols. The following year Nichols left the practice, and in 1952 Di Castri opened the practice John A. Di Castri, Architect, where he would remain for the duration of his career. Upon his return to Victoria he quickly made his presence felt. In 1952 the Vancouver conglomerate Western Woods launched a show home project to promote western cedar, as sales had been declining. Western Woods sponsored the construction of eleven "Trend Houses" across the country, each of which was in a different city and designed by an architect native to that city. For the Victoria house Di Castri was the commissioned architect. His design – also known as the Gwen Cash house – was unlike anything the city had seen before. Located at 3516 Richmond Road, the house was officially opened by the Mayor, and for several weeks Victorians in the thousands lined up to tour it.

Di Castri's career spanned six decades and resulted in a broad corpus including houses, churches, and educational and recreational buildings.

John and his wife Paddy had six children: a daughter, Stephanie, and sons Dennis, Adrian, Julian, Simon and Matthew. His son Adrian (1952-2008) became a prominent architect in Toronto. Di Castri died on 5 September 2005 at age 81. 

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