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May 22, 2009

 

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By IAN AUSTEN

OTTAWA — Arthur Erickson, who was widely viewed as Canada’s pre-eminent Modernist architect, died in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday. He was 84.

 

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Phyllis Lambert, the chairwoman of the Canadian Center for Architecture in Montreal, said Mr. Erickson, a friend, had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Mr. Erickson established an international reputation for designing innovative complexes and buildings, often to critical acclaim. Among them are the San Diego Convention Center; Napp Laboratories in Cambridge, England; the Kuwait Oil Sector Complex in Kuwait City; and Kunlun Apartment Hotel Development in Beijing.

 

He designed the Canadian pavilion, an inverted pyramid, at Expo 67, the world’s fair in Montreal; Canada’s embassy in Washington; and, with the firm of Mathers and Haldenby, the Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto’s main concert hall, a circular, futuristic building that tapers to a flat top.

 

But Mr. Erickson is perhaps best known for providing Vancouver, his hometown, with many of its architectural signatures, the most successful of which he integrated with their surrounding landscapes, avoiding ornamentation and favoring concrete (which he called “the marble of our time”). Among his notable buildings there is the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.

 

“His work always came out of the earth,” Ms. Lambert said. “He didn’t start the way most architects started. He actually started off with the earth, the landscape, and made something that inhabited the land.”

 

Mr. Erickson also campaigned for buildings that strove to maintain a human scale. In 1972 he persuaded the province of British Columbia to abandon plans for a 55-story office and court complex in downtown Vancouver.

 

Mr. Erickson’s replacement design effectively turned the tower on its side. He created a relatively low, three-block-long complex with a steel and glass truss roof and a complex concrete structure softened with trees, gardens and waterfalls.

 

It was another Vancouver commission, however, that first brought Mr. Erickson fame. Much to his surprise, he and his architectural partner at the time, Geoffrey Massey, won a competition in 1965 to design the campus of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver. Its wide, low buildings mirror the mountains surrounding the city.

 

Arthur Charles Erickson was born on June 14, 1924. His parents were influential promoters of the arts in Vancouver as the city began to grow rapidly in the early 20th century, and they encouraged Arthur and his brother to study the arts. Prominent Canadian artists in Vancouver became Mr. Erickson’s mentors, notably the landscape painter Lawren S. Harris.

 

After serving with the Canadian Army in Asia as a commando and intelligence officer during World War II, Mr. Erickson began his university studies with the hope of becoming a diplomat. But in his autobiography, “The Architecture of Arthur Erickson,” he wrote that he changed his mind in 1947 after seeing, in Fortune magazine, photographs of Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Modernist and environmentally sensitive house built in the desert in Scottsdale, Ariz.

 

“Suddenly, it was clear to me,” Mr. Erickson wrote. “If such a magical realm was the province of an architect, I would become one.”

 

He moved to Montreal to study architecture at McGill University.

 

After his success with the Simon Fraser commission, Mr. Erickson was awarded other prestigious projects, including the Canadian Expo pavilion. That work raised his public profile, and Mr. Erickson used it to promote environmentalism and corporate responsibility.

 

Mr. Erickson’s commission to design a new embassy in Washington generated some controversy when Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, a friend, awarded it to Mr. Erickson without any public process. The building, which opened in 1989, is on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the Capitol. Paul Goldberger, the chief architecture critic of The New York Times at the time, called it one of Mr. Erickson’s less-successful works.

 

Over the years Mr. Erickson’s firm — today it is called the Arthur Erickson Corporation — opened branches in Toronto, Los Angeles, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Information about his survivors was not available.

 

Il étudie à Montréal, mais aucune oeuvre ici?

 

In 1992, Mr. Erickson, millions of dollars in debt, was forced to declare bankruptcy. But he continued to practice, producing work like the Museum of Glass, in Tacoma, Wash. He also continued to champion Modernism and decried a postmodern trend that emphasized ornamentation and decoration.

 

“After 1980, you never heard reference to space again,” he said in a speech at McGill in 2000. “Surface, the most convincing evidence of the descent into materialism, became the focus of design,” and, he added, “space the essence of architectural expression at its highest level, disappeared.”

 

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/22/arts/22erickson.html?scp=1&sq=montreal&st=cse

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Il étudie à Montréal, mais aucune oeuvre ici?

Ironique n'est-ce pas ? En même temps, ça en dit long sur notre ville et la timidité légendaire des décideurs (privés ou public : je les met dans le même frêle esquif). Si ce n'était d'Habitat '67, il n'y aurait aucune oeuvre de Moshe Safdie à Montréal et nous n'avons rien non plus de celui qui est peut-être le plus célèbre architecte canadien du 21ième siècle -Frank Gehry !!!

 

Maintenant qu'Érickson est mort on ne pourra jamais rêver de lui commander une oeuvre pour Montréal mais les deux autres -bien que plus très jeunes- sont encore actifs. Il est à parier que jamais plus Safdie ne travaillera à Montréal et que jamais Gehry ne travaillera pour nous.

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