I have been following this architect's work for many years, as he is one of my favorites. If you have additional information on any of these projects, it would be much appreciated - GH.
1924- , Canadian architect, born in Vancouver, BC. Considered one of Canada's greatest architects. Studied at the University of British Columbia and McGill University, and after traveling extensively in Europe and the Far East, returned to practice in Vancouver. He contributed to the rebirth of Modernism within Canada, and is known for his unique ability to handle large-scale contemporary architecture which is sensitive to its location by exploiting the effects of various materials and structural systems. He has designed private homes such as the Puget Sound House and the Newport Beach House, public buildings such as the San Diego Convention Center and the UBC Museum of Anthropology, the Vancouver Court House, Simon Fraser University, and the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC.
Erickson's design was innovative in several aspects. The mountain top location inspired Erickson to reject multi-story buildings, which he thought would look out of place. Instead, Erickson turned for inspiration to the acropolis in Athens and the hill towns of Italy, where the mountain was incorporated into the design itself. This concept is evident in many aspects of the university's design. For example, the manner in which the buildings are terraced to reflect the contours of the landscape and the emphasis upon the horizontal rather than the vertical expansion of the buildings themselves.
Another innovative aspect of the design was its rejection of the usual separation of faculties and departments into individual buildings. Erickson wanted to facilitate interdisciplinary work and a closer relationship between faculty and students, so the design incorporated buildings housed several departments as well as classroom space. This measure satisfied the practical requirements of both students and faculty by reducing the travel time between classes, and helped foster an intimate learning environment.
Simon Fraser University opened in 1965 and was heralded worldwide as an architectural success. The university's new buildings have remained true to the original design principles conceived by its founding architect.
One of the world's most impressive displays of Northwest Coast First Nations art is housed in an unusual building overlooking mountains and sea at the northwest corner of the University of British Columbia. Erickson wanted the design of the building to have a close relationship with these dramatic surroundings. He worked to highlight what he considers the four principal architectural elements: site, light, cadence and space.
Erickson has had a long admiration and respect for the Native American cultures, and for this reason he seemed an appropriate choice as architect of the Museum of Anthropology. Retaining the natural settings of Native American artifacts was a primary consideration, and his desire to include the natural environment as part of the design is in part accomplished via large expanses of glass. Natural lighting is intentionally utilized to cast natural shade and shadow upon the exhibits.
Erickson attempted to abstractly represent these natural conditions indoors. He coupled changes in the character of the lighting with the visitor's experience of moving through the building. Erickson said, ``Most of my concepts have to do with how one moves, and since the site is sloped, I felt the whole movement should be down a long ramp with more and more revealed, until the whole space burst open with a view of the sea.'' In order to achieve that experience in the Great Hall, Erickson enclosed the northwest-facing space with broad areas of glass and a succession of concrete beams of increasing length separated by slivers of skylight. There are conflicting opinions of what these concrete piers are meant to mimic. Erickson is quoted by one source as saying the posts and beams recall the form of the frame of a tribal dwelling. Another source quotes Erickson as saying that the piers simulate massive tree trunks. In either case, the Great Hall represents the forest's edge, overlooking the prospect of the land and water.
To heighten this experience, Erickson had intended to surround the northwest side of the museum with an artificial lake, which would not only complete the native environment which it sought to simulate, but would also reflect the sunset, and bring ``moving light'' into the Great Hall as the water rippled. Due to the site's location perched upon a cliff above the strait, this artificial lake was intended to seamlessly blur into the waters of the Georgia Strait, creating an illusion of continuity with the distant landscape. However, this part of the design was never implemented for cost reasons.
In Erickson's mind, one of the most successful aspects of the museum is the way visitors move systematically through the galleries. The ability to bring artifacts from the research collection out of storage, allowing the public to view the full expanse of the museum's collection was also very important to him. Overall, Erickson said he strove for a ``tranquility of space'', where there is a resolution of forces to bring the building into balance.
I highly recommend that you visit the Vital Signs Project for more detailed information on the museum building. Most of my information here was obtained from this site.
In the late 1960's, a 572 acre expanse of land adjoining the Oldman River was chosen for the development of a university campus to serve Southern Alberta. When architect Arthur Erickson designed the University Hall, he envisoned a building which would ride the rolling coulees of the valley. It nestles into the folds of the coulee formed by the river, and its long flat roof echoes the flatness of the prairie above the coulee. The large campus, most of which is left in an undeveloped, natural prairie state, only further emphasizes the harmony between the land and the campus. Erickson's sculptural architecture is a natural and fitting companion to the prairie landscape.
The University of Lethbridge campus was officially opened in 1972. It has been expanded several times since, mostly in keeping with the architect's original vision. The sensitivity of the campus architecture to its context is a clear common link between this work, and his others at Simon Fraser University and the Museum of Anthropology.
The embassy is a blend of neoclassic and modern concepts, with a facade of smooth, unpolished Canadian marble that echoes the monuments around it. The embassy consists of three wings and six freestanding 50-foot that surround a spacious courtyard. The courtyard symbolizes the vastness of Canada's geography and the openness of its people. The colonnade, which supports a narrow plexiglas skylight, initiates the play of scales that is a primary feature of the building.
The slender triangular pillar that anchors the embassy's southeast corner echoes the angles of I.M. Pei's modernist East Building of the National Gallery of Art. The Rotunda of the Provinces is supported by 12 columns, one for each of the 10 provinces and the two oldest territories (Nunavut was later created in 1999), clustered within a cascading pool. The interior of the building is characterized by sharp, crisp angles and shapes, Arthur Erickson's architectural trademark, and the use of four materials: stone, metal, concrete and glass.
``A 3-block long complex whose concrete construction and geometric lines are softened by lots of plantings-even on roofs-plus a pool, waterfalls, and intricate patterns of stairs and ramps. Included are a 7-story Law Courts Building with a tilted glass roof and exposed structural framing, a lower-rise government office building, an indoor mall, outdoor plazas, and an old courthouse transformed into the Vancouver Art Gallery.''
-from Sylvia Hart Wright. Sourcebook of Contemporary North American Architecture: From Postwar to Postmodern. p27.
I would like to thank Melvin W Buxton for the aerial view of the Robson Square complex.
This 5 story, 201,750 square foot structure is designed as a metaphor of Fresno's geographic setting. Both the expansive feeling of the valley and the thrust and shape of the Sierra Nevada are portrayed in the shape of the building. The outside metallic trim is Sea Foam Green from the Chrysler corporation '63 autos, and the roof is comprised of 2 acres of stainless steel.
98.12.30 / Garth Huber / modified 05.07.04