Arthur Erickson House & Garden Foundation offer tours of his Japanese garden in Point Grey, Vancouver, every Thursday at 5:00pm through October. Cost is $15 and reservations are required by phone or email.

Arthur Erickson purchased the property in 1959, consisting of a small cottage and a garage/storage shed built on two 33′ x 120′ lots. The cottage, built in 1924, was tight to the lane at the back of the property, a common and allowable practice at that time so that the owners would have somewhere to live while a proper house was built in the centre of the lot. The main house was never built and it left what had become a unique property and one with a potential which Erickson was quick to appreciate. The herbaceous border garden which had been there when the cottage was purchased soon became overgrown and, in 1959, he decided to bulldoze the garden, forming a pond in front of the cottage and piling the excavated dirt up to form a berm which provided a backdrop to the pond and a privacy barrier to the street. A high fence completed the process of isolating the garden from the outside world and created a private and quite magical oasis in the midst of a suburban neighbourhood. Some of the garden was paved with brick to create outdoor sitting areas, planting included keeping rhododendrons, azalea, mountain laurel and firs, while adding ferns, reeds, wild grasses, bamboo, and summer flowers in pots. A final touch was the creation of a stone moon-watching platform at the edge of the pond. The platform forms an aesthetic and spiritual centre for the naturalistic composition of the garden. In 1960, the cottage and the garage were joined with a link which serves as a kitchen/dining room. The garage, which had become a guest house, was enlarged with the addition of a small greenhouse section and became a sleeping loft and a studio where Arthur Erickson has been able to work in serenity and solitude on his singular, creative designs, looking out on the tranquil garden he created. The interior of the cottage incorporates many gestures in form and materials that have been aesthetic choices that have become signatures of Arthur Erickson’s architecture.

In 1992, responding to a crisis, a group of supporters came together to spearhead an effort to rescue the house and garden. Arthur Erickson had been forced to declare personal bankruptcy and the property was under foreclosure by the holder of a sizable mortgage, with a probable sale and demolition impending. The ‘Friends’, as they were first called, were led by founder Elizabeth Watts, a landscape architect, who was joined by Hugo Eppich, Kari Huhtala, and Michael Jeffery. Phyllis Lambert, Director and Founder of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, offered her support. Over 100 letters of support from all walks of life were written to the City of Vancouver.

Arthur Erickson was born in 1924 in Vancouver where he grew up and developed an interest and talent for painting. He attended the University of British Columbia, intending a career in the diplomatic service. During World War II, he was assigned to the intelligence-gathering unit of the Canadian Army where he learned Japanese and served in India, Ceylon and Malaysia. It was here that he became interested in Oriental art and philosophy. A chance encounter with an article on Frank Lloyd Wright and his studio at Taliesin West deeply impressed him and induced him to study architecture. After graduating from the School of Architecture at McGill University in 1950, he travelled extensively in the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Japan before turning to teaching architecture, first at the University of Oregon and then at the University of British Columbia. Recognized for his early, award winning domestic architecture, he achieved national prominence with the competition winning design for Simon Fraser University completed with his partner Geoffrey Massey in 1963. Many notable commissions followed, including the second Gordon Smith House, the Macmillan-Bloedel office building, the Canadian Pavilion at Osaka Worlds Fair, the Sikh Temple in Vancouver, the B.C. Provincial Law Courts and Government Offices in downtown Vancouver, Roy Thomson Concert Hall in Toronto, the Museum of Anthropology at U.B.C., the Canadian Chancery in Washington D.C., and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma among many others around the world. His projects display a particular sensitivity to site, careful handling of light, and incorporation of landscape elements, often including water. All of these are demonstrated in the unique design of his own house and garden. Acknowledgement of the value of his work has included six Massey medals, three Governor General’s Awards, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Gold Medal, the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, the French Academy of Architecture Gold Medal, and the Order of Canada. The garden and the house in which he has lived and kept his studio for over 45 years have been at the centre of his enormously creative and productive life which has established him as Canada’s pre-eminent architect. As such, it has become a significant cultural property in the history of Canadian and world architecture and its preservation is essential.

Mr. Erickson passsed away on May 20, 2009 in Vancouver. He remained in the house until a few months prior to his death.

Thu Sep 8, 2011  starts @ 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Thu Sep 15, 2011  starts @ 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Thu Sep 22, 2011  starts @ 5:00pm – 6:00pm
Thu Sep 29, 2011  starts @ 5:00pm – 6:00pm

Arthur Erickson House and Garden Foundation
PO Box 39042
Vancouver, BC V6R 4P1

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