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Arthur Erickson 1924-2009

May 20th, 2009 · 6 Comments

Arthur’s friends are calling each other around the city and the world tonight with the news that, after several months of failing health, he has died.

I won’t presume to try to capture his complex and creative life here — there will be much written about him in the next few days — but it does feel like the final punctuation point to a particular kind of force and architecture in the city.

There are many people in Vancouver who love to gripe about the buildings of this city’s most renowned architect: They leak, they aren’t really meant for people, there’s too much concrete. But I just loved them. Unlike some of the buildings that go up around the city today, which look as though the architect couldn’t really decide which style to use so there’s something of everything, Arthur’s designs felt unified and whole.

I’ve spent my share of time in the law courts and I did a graduate degree at Simon Fraser University, and every time I went to either of them I felt this sense of pleasure and tranquillity. They had a grand simplicity and airiness to them, like temples.

Arthur’s last few years were difficult, as he became frailer. But, no matter how much he struggled with some parts of his life, just talking about the line or curve of a building would make his face light up.

Those who drive around the city might want to take a moment this week to look at the public buildings he left to us: the Museum of Anthropology out at UBC, the MacMillan Bloedel building on Georgia, the Law Courts downtown, the SFU campus on Burnaby Mountain. Also, (and I know there’s some debate about these buildings), the community centre under construction on the south side of False Creek and the twisting tower on the Concord land on the north side.

They’re buildings that helped Vancouver move past being a frumpy Victorian outpost to a new West Coast city.

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