Erickson: ‘The skyline is getting much too blah’

The Globe is on a roll these days. There is a short but rather interesting interview with Arthur Erickson about his views on his career, concrete, Vancouver’s skyline, and his latest 60-storey highrise, the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton.

Personally, I’m a big fan of this project. It may not be the first “turn tower” of its kind, but it is a first for Canada’s West Coast, and as Erickson alludes to, it does break up some of the monotony of the usual office boxes and glass condo towers the city is known for.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

This will be your tallest building in Vancouver. What impact did you want this building to have on Vancouver’s skyline?

To show change. The skyline is getting much too blah. The one thing that seems to be the force behind general design is height. This started in New York and now it’s Abu Dhabi, where records are broken every time an architect gets his hands on a building.

I remember starting out in design and looking at Chicago, which had the tallest buildings in North America at the time. That gave me an impulse I wouldn’t have otherwise had to take advantage of the engineering of the moment and push it as far as possible.

I’ve always felt architects have to be the breakers of convention and surpass whatever has gone before. But I didn’t know how technology would allow us to do that. The whole experience of building over the last century has been accomplishing the obstacles of height and view. People have always been interested in the “wow impact” of height.

They want to be at the very top, to get the best view and Vancouver is the ideal site for that.

Vancouver’s skyline, and that of many other cities, is dominated by glass skyscrapers. What do you think of the use of so much glass?

I’ve always been for glass. I like seeing out. I like the light coming in and the view.

You’re 83 now. Will this be your last project?

It will be my highest project. But not my last.

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