The Best of Arthur Erickson

Arthur Erickson was the first of Canada’s own celebrity architects. Active largely in the second half of the 20th century, he is widely known for some of the most innovative modernist constructions undertaken in this period of time. Born and brought up in lush British Columbia, the land of forests, towering mountainscapes, stormy beaches and a wholesome outdoor living stayed with him throughout his work, as evidenced by the unconventional designs he made, especially houses, which somehow seem to fit right into the natural surrounding. A majority of his projects are distinctive for the way they unabashedly confess a reverence for the monumentality and power of nature. In appearance, the designs achieve a gorgeous, dramatic look which Erickson somehow created by simple means.

Arthur Erickson, C.C., 1984

We bring in his 94th birthday through a celebration of his best work. We focus both on civic and institutional work that stand as prominent landmarks today, and the most remote residences he designed, which stand out for their emotionally evocative spaces and their simplicity. Read on to witness the stunning creations of an architectural genius.

1. The Museum of Anthropology UBC

Perhaps his most recognisable work, this is an award winning construction set in tiers of sections that strategically let in natural light while allowing ample texture and shadow play. The monumental glass facades seamlessly connect the interiors with the forest outside.

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2. The Waterfall Building

Built of concrete and glass, this is an ambitious construction that features a glass pyramid and a waterfall on the inside, placed there to drown out street noise in the Vancouver locality it stands in.

Waterfall building

3. Koerner library, UBC

Another masterpiece located within the University of British Columbia campus, The Koerner Library is, in appearance, a block of glass sitting on a granite base, a signature of modernist construction.

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4. Smith Residence Vancouver

Designed in collaboration with Geoffrey Masey, this residence featured a gentle cascade of terraces and living spaces that embraced the slope of the hill that it sat on. Sadly, this house was demolished.

smith residence

5. Graham House

The variation of floor planes, a signature of Erickson’s designs, is created with another distinctive technique of his- the intersection of horizontal cross-beams with vertical columns, which is a common feature of native West-coast homes. Erickson distributed construction on the ‘least interesting parts’ of the land, keeping intact the best parts of the woody property.

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6. Catton House

Wood is the star of this construction, and was a favorite material of Erickson. A large number of the dramatic buidingscapes were created by twisting and experimenting with timber in innovative ways. Erickson paved the path for countless future architects who would repetitively explore the techniques he brought to construction.

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7. Helmut-eppich House

It has been noted how the architect used water as a central element to add to the construction in subtle and powerful ways.

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8. Maui House

Erickson notably achieved grace and allure in his designs by taking into account the dynamic connection between interiors and exteriors. All his designs provide dramatic views into the landscape outside, completing this connect.

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9. EverGreen Building

Located in West Pender, Vancouver, and completed in 1978, the Coal Harbour Office, or the Evergreen Building, as it came to be known thanks to Erickson, rises in tiers, with greenery spilling out of the edges, like a landscaped hillside. The greenery balances the cement of the large construction, and gives it movement and grace.

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Simon Fraser University

Arthur Erickson and close collaborator Geoffrey Massey were behind the award winning design behind the Simon Fraser University. This was the design that launched the young architect into international acclaim, with his innovative and conceptually strong design, regionally customised to perfection. The mountaintop location made Erickson reject multi-stories, creating a smooth, flat building modelled on the acropolis in Athens, where the mountain was incorporated into the design. The horizontal emphasis, additionally, extended at a conceptual level into the layout of the departments, which are all enclosed in the same building, to reflect the universality of learning, and as a critique of the over-specialization of education.

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                                                                                                                         Faustina Johnson


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