Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Architecture of Arthur Erickson: By Lezah

Arthur Erickson recently submitted a proposal to the City of Vancouver for the design of what looks to be an absolutely exquisite building. If approved, it will be the second tallest building in the city, and boasts a unique three-sided twist. The structure will be built on a series of parabolas, each which rotates slightly, creating the appearance of movement.

Erickson himself was originally inspired to become an architect by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, and was then discouraged from going into the field by leading modernist architect at the time, Richard Neutra. Fortunately, he ignored Neutra's advice.

Erickson has been described as Canada's most imaginative and articulate architect, and is currently one of Canada's best known architects. His work can be seen and has been recognized internationally.

However, maybe more important than the recognition for his international work are the changes he has brought to the face of Vancouver. An integral corridor in Vancouver's downtown core is the two-block Robson Square Courthouse Complex, which involved the melding of the pre-existing Art Gallery ( the former courthouse) with the new Courthouse Complex. With what could easily have become a jarring clash of styles, Erickson managed to fuse the complex into a pleasing community space: gardens and waterfalls camouflage the law courts and offices close to the road, and then the structure rises to an airy glass courthouse. A pedestal pathway leads the public underneath Robson Street to the ice arena, which is, unfortunately, no longer in operation.

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Rob Melnychuk Photography Inc.

There are many other notable Erickson buildings in and around Vancouver proper. Erickson has stated that "the building isn't as important as the relationship between the building and the site", and this is certainly true in the case of both Simon Fraser University and UBC's Museum of Anthropology. Simon Fraser University was a competition that Erickson's firm won - it's what first 'put them on the map', so to speak, gaining them international recognition and making the front cover of many architectural magazines at the time. Set on top of Burnaby Mountain, SFU echoes the plateaus and multi-levels found in the surrounding landscape. Likewise, UBC's Museum of Anthropology both literally and figuratively reflects the waterfront near which it sits.

Other well known buildings by Erickson include the Canadian Chancery in Washington, DC, McGill University in Montreal, the San Diego Convention Centre, and The Museum of Glass in Washington.

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