book review : arthur erickson an architect’s life

arthur erickson book

a very in-depth biography on the late vancouver architect by david stouck. i thoroughly enjoyed reading this book as it delved deep into the life of the architect. it is fascinating (perhaps because being hindsight always 20/20) to learn about how he designed, what he believed in and where some of the ideas/fundamental in his design language came from.

here is a more official synopsis of the book:

Long-listed for the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize

An intimate portrait of the brilliant and controversial architect who put Canada on the world stage.

Arthur Erickson, Canada’s pre-eminent philosopher-architect, was renowned for his innovative approach to landscape, his genius for spatial composition and his epic vision of architecture for people.

Erickson worked chiefly in concrete, which he called “the marble of our times,” and wherever they appear, his buildings move the spirit with their poetic freshness and their mission to inspire. Travel was key to Erickson’s creative process: floating high above the clouds on extended flights, he made the preliminary drawings for the spectacular, large-scale works that would be built in various parts of Canada — Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University — and around the world.

But he was also a controversial figure, more than once attracting the ire of his fellow architects, and leading a complicated personal life that resulted in a series of bankruptcies. In a fall from grace that recalls a Greek tragedy, Canada’s great architect — a handsome, elegant man who lived like a millionaire and counted among his close friends Pierre Trudeau and Elizabeth Taylor — eventually became penniless.

This first full biography of Erickson, who died in 2009 at the age of 84, traces his life from its modest origins to his emergence on the world stage. Grounded in interviews with Erickson and his family, friends and clients, Arthur Erickson is both an intimate portrait of the man and a stirring account of how he made his buildings work. Brilliantly written and superbly researched, it is also a provocative look at the phenomenon of cultural heroes and the nature of what we call “genius.”

go and get your copy at chapters or amazon or even better yet though the publisher douglas&mcintyre.

another review of the book in mcleans by ken macqueen.

a lengthy review by rhodri windsor-liscombe at bc studies website.

one more review of the book at the star by robert collison.

bonus: watch a rare 1973 interview with arthur erickson here courtesy of cbc archives.

a local company, dilemma productions, has completed a film ‘the life and times of arthur erickson‘.

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