Arthur Charles Erickson was born in 1924 in Vancouver where he grew up and developed an interest in and talent for painting. He attended the University of British Columbia, intending a career in the diplomatic service. During World War II, he was assigned to the intelligence-gathering unit of the Canadian Army where he learned Japanese and served in India, Ceylon and Malaysia. It was here that he became interested in Oriental art and philosophy.
A chance encounter with an article on Frank Lloyd Wright and his studio at Taliesin West deeply impressed Arthur Erickson, inspiring him to study architecture. Granted a travel scholarship upon graduating from the School of Architecture at McGill University in 1950, he travelled extensively in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Japan, a journey which influenced and enriched his views about culture, built form, and landscape.
Erickson taught architecture, first at the University of Oregon and then at the University of British Columbia. Recognized for his early, award-winning domestic architecture, he achieved national prominence with the competition-winning design for Simon Fraser University, completed with his partner Geoffrey Massey in 1963. Many notable commissions followed, including the Canadian Pavilion at Osaka World’s Fair, Robson Square in downtown Vancouver, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, the Canadian Chancery in Washington DC, and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington, among many others around the world. Recognition of his work has included six Massey medals, three Governor General's Awards, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Gold Medal, the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, the French Academy of Architecture Gold Medal, and the Order of Canada.
Erickson’s projects display a particular sensitivity to site, careful handling of light, and integration with landscape elements, often water. All of these are demonstrated in the uniquely modest house and garden in Point Grey, Vancouver. The garden and the house in which he lived and kept his studio for over 45 years were at the centre of his enormously creative and productive life. As the longtime home of Canada’s pre-eminent architect, it has become a significant cultural property in the history of Canadian and world architecture, and its preservation is essential.
Arthur Erickson died on May 20, 2009 in Vancouver. He remained in the house until a few months prior to his death.
Photo credit: Simon Scott