Iconic Arthur Erickson

I was saddened to hear that Canada lost one of its greatest design icons on Thursday when Vancouver-based architect Arthur Erickson died.

It was around this time two years ago, just as flip-flops were being dusted off, that I was working on a story for our special Best of Canada issue of House & Home (December 2007). We wanted a roundup of the 20 creative icons whose work had firmly planted the maple leaf on the international design map. As we nailed down our criteria and held tug-of-wars in the boardroom over who should be on or off the list, I remember circling one name: Arthur Erickson.

Arthur Erickson

No question he was a legend, and Canada’s first truly global architect. His gift helped make the built landscape in B.C. — from homes to government buildings — as breathtaking as the natural one. Who wouldn’t walk a little taller under the shimmering roof at Robson Square (below).

Robson Square walking under the glass

Or entering his concrete-and-glass masterpiece at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (below).

The Museum of Anthropology - stepped concrete and glass

Before long, the rest of the world took notice: He built Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, the Canadian Chancery in Washington and gave rise to other buildings from the UK to Kuwait City. He was the first Canadian to win the illustrious Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects. And in 2007 he won the prestigious 2007 Prix du XXe siècle, recognizing enduring excellence in nationally significant architecture. He picked up honorary degrees (more than 60) like some people collect shoes.

So why did I circle his name instead of putting him immediately on the Yes list? We did the math and figured he was at least 80: there’s no way he was still working as an architect…was there?

I was surprised and delighted to be proven wrong: He was still going strong at 83. A difficult loss for his family and friends and a huge one for Canada.

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