PHOTO ESSAY

Concrete Poet

The bold lines of architect Arthur Erickson

By Greg Buium
May 2006
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Photo by Ricardo L. Castro, 2005. Courtesy of the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Photo by Ricardo L. Castro, 2005. Courtesy of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

MacMillan Bloedel Building (1965)
Vancouver

Olsberg calls the MacMillan Bloedel Building “one of the great skyscrapers.” Designed as the headquarters for the B.C. forestry giant, “MacBlo” stands on West Georgia Street, near Vancouver’s banking and shopping districts, an environment Erickson once called “a discordant mess.” The architect tried to isolate the tower, Olsberg explains, “to make it a lonely building in a crowded landscape.”

How does Erickson do it? He pulls it under the street. Its modernist purity – the repetition of identical units; the coarse, dull surface – now feels rather old-fashioned, circled as it is by this shiny new city of glass. That, Olsberg argues, is the source of its power. “It’s got this serenity within the midst of what look like very transitional and temporary buildings … it’s this one unchanging monument.”
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