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poet of concrete

18 December 2009

Arthur Erickson Foundation for Excellence in Architecture

There is no more fitting place to celebrate the achievements of Arthur Erickson than Simon Fraser University. And some would say no other place where the dialogue between building and setting can be heard as loud…

On top of a mountain, at a university – itself a bold experiment both in learning and in built form, defined by concrete and glass, full of light, fresh air and redolent with possibility.

The fact that Erickson designed this space — where hundreds have come June 14 to honour him and his memory — as a place of gathering and discourse; and that this project — his first major commission — would catapult him onto the international stage in 1963; and that this very day would have been his 85th birthday, is all achingly appropriate.

Erickson was born in Vancouver on June 14, 1924, and he died here on May 20, 2009. Between these dates, he travelled and studied widely, created buildings that were (and still are) controversial, won awards, went bankrupt, kept working, made a come-back, and changed forever the landscape of Canadian architecture.

His work is known around the world – Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto, the Canadian Embassy in Washington, the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Kunlun Apartment Hotel in Beijing and the Kuwait Oil Complex in Kuwait City.

But we know him best for those projects that are so uniquely sited across southwestern British Columbia:, Simon Fraser University, the UBC Museum of Anthropology, Robson Square, the Koerner Library, the Waterfall Building, and numerous private homes.

At the celebration, the late Abraham Rogatnick spoke movingly of his friend and fellow architect.

“Arthur was eloquent with words. But he became most renowned as an architect whose life and whose work can be seen as a long and lyrical but silent poem, a song without words…
We still walk the many poetic paths that he created. Alas the poet is gone, but the poem of his long life journey lives on.”

To commemorate his work, and to help future students of architecture, Arthur Erickson’s family has created the Arthur Erickson Foundation for Excellence in Architecture.

“Arthur was always a student of the arts. He never stopped questioning and learning, and challenging assumptions,” says nephew Christopher Erickson. “He brought the same intellectual rigor and passion to architecture. We thought the best way we could honour his spirit and his legacy is by creating a permanent fund in his memory.”

The Arthur Erickson Foundation for Excellence in Architecture is set up at Vancouver Foundation to take donations at any time and in any amount. Income from the endowment fund will be used to support deserving students of architecture here in B.C.

For more information about the Arthur Erickson Foundation for Excellence in Architecture, or to donate to the fund, visit the Foundation website at
or contact Peter Jackman,    604.629.5357.

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