Friday, May 22, 2009

Arthur Erickson, 1924-2009

Arthur Erickson, the famous Canadian architect, died May 20, 2009. Story here. His firm and a Columbus firm Feinknopf Macioce Schappa were partners in the competition for the Wexner Center for the Arts.

Their submission won the popular vote, but wasn't selected by the jury. In fact, it was so popular, even the other participants thought they'd won. Too bad. If you're familiar with the Wexner you probably know it has been extremely expensive to maintain for a named "gift." The most recent renovation cost $15.8 million for a building built in 1989, named for the primary donor, Les Wexner, founder of Limited Brands, which includes Victoria Secret, and Bath and Body Works.

In 1982 the OSU Board of Trustees authorized a competition for an arts center and my husband’s firm (he was a partner) Feinknopf Macioce Schappa was paired with the Arthur Erickson firm of Vancouver, British Columbia. Trott and Bean, both OSU grads (Bean lived across the street from us) was paired with Eisenman/Robertson of New York. Three other Ohio architectural firms from Dayton, Cleveland and Columbus also participated. The program was vague--an understatement. The participants didn't even have the place for the building specified let alone a firm focus.

In the vicinity of the supposed location there once was an armory which was removed in 1959. To tie into the history of the location, Peter Eisenman's design (with two loyal OSU alumni) includes faux towers reminiscent of the armory at the corners of the building and some sort of alignment with the football field and flights into Port Columbus! Not being familiar with this piece of OSU history, the Eisenman building always reminds me of a collection of glued popsicle sticks.

Although FMS + Erickson didn't win, it was an exciting time in my husband's career with Erickson's people coming to Columbus several times, and he going to Vancouver to work with them. He loved working with this group and fell in love with Vancouver.

In 1996 we visited Vancouver after my MLA meeting in Seattle, and stopped at the Erickson firm again, but much had changed (downsized, different location). It had been about 12 years. My husband didn't know many of the people. But we did visit several of Erickson's buildings in that area: Museum of Anthropology (1972) Vancouver; Simon Fraser University (1963) Burnaby, B.C.; and Robson Square (1973-79) Vancouver.

Update: If you think I'm tough on librarians, you should read my thoughts on architecture and the rush to be green.

There is a photo of the Erickson/FMS popular winner on p. 9 of "Design by Competition" by Jack L. Nasar. It has been scanned by Google.

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