More on the fallout from the demolition of Erickson’s “Graham House”

Kevin Vallely, who works as a consultant for the West Vancouver practice of Kallweit Graham Architecture, has written a compelling article in the North Shore News asking what buildings we chose to preserve in the name of heritage, and why.

The recent demolition of the Graham residence, designed by Arthur Erickson, forces us to consider what truly defines our architectural heritage…
It’s a particularly poignant question here on the North Shore where our heritage is very different than what one might think.

After the Second World War, the North Shore saw a period of rapid growth, with families from Eastern Canada and abroad moving to the region in search of a new life and a new beginning. The West Coast was seen as a place of opportunity, a place where the pioneering spirit could flourish and innovative ideas could thrive. The stunning natural beauty of Vancouver’s mountainous backdrop immediately drew people to it, and before long West Vancouver became a Canadian hot spot for contemporary architectural expression.

… Understanding our architectural heritage and making efforts to protect it is critical for all communities. The traditional-looking homes of our past — the craftsman bungalow for example — seem to have an easier go of it these days. People recognize their value and understand the importance of preserving them for future generations. But one must also realize that the “modern home” is also an important piece of our architectural past, and here on the North Shore might be our most important architectural legacy of all.

Meanwhile, Adele Weder, writing for TheTyee, has juxtaposed the Graham House destruction against Vancouver’s booming real estate market and more to the point, the new Ritz-Carlton “twist” tower designed by Arthur Erickson.

We should not so mindlessly celebrate the Erickson brand that we tend to forget what the architecture itself is (or was) all about. At the Ritz-Carlton launch there was hardly a word about the poetics of space or anything else that once distinguished Erickson from the run-of-the-mill master builders, the Erickson who created not just the MacBlo building but Robson Square, the Eppich House, the Museum of Anthropology, and a legion of other masterpieces. All are far more purely expressive of the great architect’s unique vision than is the glamorous Ritz-Carlton.

We’re not doing our West coast maestro any favours by celebrating his name more than his very best works.

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