Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Arthur Erickson, 1924-2009

Following a remarkable career spanning Vancouver's modern history, one of the great Canadian and west coast architects has died. 

Arthur Erickson passed away today in Vancouver at the age of 84. The Globe & Mail has a brief article, with a full obituary forthcoming.

Born in Vancouver, Erickson travelled widely and, similarly to Louis Kahn, had a deep respect for classical forms and architectural history that was transformed into a singular modernist vision. His work later spanned the globe but he maintained a home base in Vancouver, occupying a modest home in Point Grey for over fifty years. 

Sean Rossiter called Erickson "the supreme cultural personality ever to emerge in this city" and though that is arguably less true now than in the mid-nineties when Rossiter's article appeared- having less to do with any diminishing influence of Erickson's and more to do with the inevitable rise of other prominent cultural figures- it is still a persuasive assessment. Rossiter goes on to say that "such a figure is usually the culmination of a slow, time-consuming process of gradual development". 

That certainly fits with Erickson's working life and his intimate relationship with this city, which remained active up until very recently. One of his last projects- the Ritz-Carlton in Vancouver- was a casualty of the recent economic malaise but remains 'on hold'.

We'll raise a cup tonight in celebration of a full life and linger a moment longer in the days ahead over the familiar Erickson-designed structures that populate our city.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Urban Sketchers

Very cool
blog by a group of artists dedicated to recording the urban environment through sketching. There's a great vibrancy and a flaneur-esque appeal to the work, which is consolidated from members around the world.

See also this Flickr site by Matthew Cencich (a member of Urban Sketchers) for some wonderful Vancouver and Victoria based content. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

West Coast Residential

The latest issue of Canadian Architect shines a light on the recent residential work of two Vancouver architects.

Matthew Woodruff's Mayne Island House and Clinton Cuddington's Wolfe Avenue Residence are a study in contrasts within the Modernist framework. While both feature a considered, clean-lined approach to design, emphasizing spatial relationships and attention to light, the differences lie in the detailing, scale and materials used.

Adele Weder contributes an article on Woodruff's house, casting it as a return to the largely forgotten principles of the West Coast Modernist movement. There's an economy of materials and size (1100 sq. ft.) that runs counter to much of the ethos of recent residential design, and a relationship to the site that is elemental. 

Cuddington's residence is a different beast at 5695 sq. ft., with richer materials and more involved detailing. Leslie Jen's article notes there has been some dissention at the scale and grandeur of the place, though it could be argued that it responds appropriately to its site in Shaughnessy. Cuddington encountered opposition to his design early on and it's significant that he was able to push through what is a relatively radical design for the neighborhood. 

The Wolfe residence is a far cry from the modest post and beam houses that were so prominent in Vancouver 50 years ago, but it provides an example of large scale residential that goes beyond McMansions and neo-traditional.

Curiously, Woodruff and Cuddington were partners in Measured Architecture (after serving stints in Bing Thom's office), prior to Woodruff leaving to set up his own practice. Both houses have been profiled in local publications recently, but The Canadian Architect features set them up in a satisfying architectural dialogue.