Arthur Erickson supporters make plea for reflecting pool at Museum of Anthropology

Colleagues and friends of world-renowned architect Arthur Erickson, who died on May 20 at the age of 84, say it’s time to complete his vision for the Museum of Anthropology and fill a permanent reflecting pool on the ocean-facing side of the structure.

Erickson designed the museum in 1976. He also participated as a consulting architect with his former colleague, Stantec Architecture’s Noel Best, in its current renovations, which include a new wing and welcome plaza, and various upgrades, some of which are still under construction and will be revealed at a grand relaunch in January 2010.

“He’s been wanting that [to see the pool filled] for 30 years,” remarked his friend and colleague architect Bing Thom.

Simon Scott, an architectural photographer, friend of Erickson’s, and president of the Arthur Erickson House and Garden Foundation, noted that for his 80th birthday in 2005, which was celebrated at the MOA, Erickson’s one wish was to have the pool filled. The occasion was only the second time the water feature was temporarily added; it was also filled to mark 1997’s APEC summit. “To eliminate or at least not to go ahead with that element of the building is one of Arthur’s biggest disappointments,” said Scott.

According to Best, there have historically been three impediments to completing Erickson’s vision. “One was that the university has always been somewhat averse to water, just because of all the liabilities and operational costs it brings along with it,” he said. “The second was that there was a fear that the weight of the water would actually jeopardize the cliffs, and speed erosion there, and that’s been dealt with.” The third, he said, was that the museum generates revenue by hosting weddings and conferences in tents set on the grounds where the reflecting pool would be. But over the last eight months, he said, “they’ve regraded a whole area a bit further to the east, which allows the tent to be just to the east of where the pool is.”

Moya Waters, the museum’s associate director and leader of its renewal project, said the institution supports the idea. “It’s still a vision for us to complete that pond in his memory,” she said.

David Grigg, associate director of infrastructure and services planning at UBC, said the main issue holding back installation of the pool is funding, estimating the project cost at approximately $250,000. He added that the pool would have to be leakproof, and be in line with the university’s goals of sustainability. “We want to run storm water through there”¦and improve the quality of the water that eventually goes down into English Bay,” he said.

Best said he’s confident the water feature will be installed: “We told Arthur over the last six months that the pool is now definitely going to happen.” As to whether it will be in place for the museum’s relaunch, he was less certain: “Perhaps not.”

Erickson’s friends say they would also like to see his home and garden preserved as a historic site. The Point Grey property is owned by the Arthur Erickson House and Garden Foundation, which purchased it in 1992 when Erickson declared personal bankruptcy. Erickson bought the two adjoining 10-by-37-metre lots in 1959, creating an expansive garden while living in an 850-square-foot cottage. He continued to live there until weeks before his death.

Scott said the foundation is in negotiations with the city to ensure the property is maintained. “There is significant debt on the property,” he noted, “but through a proposed agreement with the city, we will get heritage status and, via a density transfer, we will get funds and the debt will be relieved, and there will be funds to restore the house.”

Scott would not reveal which developer is involved in the density-transfer negotiations, but is confident the deal will go through. However, he added, “The only thing that is really holding it up at the moment is the developer going ahead with his development.”

Marco d’Agostini, senior heritage planner for Vancouver, said the property has been on the city’s heritage register in the A category since 1993. “We’re waiting to get a formal proposal in from the foundation. We certainly acknowledge the significance of the site and the legacy that’s involved, and we’ve been supporting their activities and their desire to see it protected.”¦There is an amount [of density] that could be negotiated to help cover the costs of ongoing maintenance and setting up an endowment.”




May 28, 2009 at 3:09pm

The pool doesn't need to be deep to work... But the university could also power wash the building. This is a shame that this cathedral is virtually dirty, the grounds are barely maintained, look like a work in progress.

Arthur Erickson's passing is a loss for Canada. Sadly the last years saw the 2007 destruction of one of his iconic houses, the Graham House, set on a rocky buff, by its owner the billionaire Lallji. The destruction permit was issued by the municipality of West Vancouver as it was claimed the house was in disrepair after being rented out. Yet architects visited it and found it perfectly salvageable. At a time when the Kauffmann House fetched millions at auction in the US, Lallji -owner of Park Royal shopping center and this year a suddenly generous contributor to the West Vancouver portion of the "Spirit Trail" to the tune of $500k.. hum, hum- has shown his lack of taste and respect for the architectural legacy of Erickson. Before the tasteless billionaire who chose a real cookie cutter flogger for his next abode, the latest extention to the Museum Of Anthropology went to another architect... and we are not even mentioning how the reflecting pond that should have been permanent at the MOA never materialized... Some canadians' or bureaucrats' crocodile tears won't erase these sad facts. Good bye Arthur, a true gentleman.