Concrete Poet

The bold lines of architect Arthur Erickson

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

Canadian Embassy (1983-89)
Washington, D.C.

Not every project in Critical Works is considered an unqualified success. Take the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. “I think Arthur sort of betrayed a couple of his own principles in that building,” Olsberg says, emphasizing the dearth of a repetitive framework. “I think he was trying to do too many things at once. But what an awesome responsibility, to stick a building on Pennsylvania Avenue to represent your country.”

The embassy is a postmodern collage. Echoing Washington’s neo-classical motifs and the National Gallery across the street, the embassy is filled with all kinds of odd angles — a way, perhaps, to show off the property’s stunning sightlines, which point straight towards the Capitol.

Olsberg relates the story of an official who recently attended a reception at the embassy. “‘Now I don’t know anything about architecture,’” the person said, after walking around the ambassador’s quarters on the roof, “‘but nothing ever showed me how imperial Washington was before this.’”

< Back     Top^     Next >

More from this Author

Greg Buium

Note perfect
Montreal jazz label Justin Time continues to thrive at 25
Kid stuff
Art projects empower children and make adults think
Long live the LP
In the iTunes era, the album still reigns supreme
Van City blues
The unflinching photography of Vancouver's Roy Arden
Shooting match
Vancouver director Bruce Sweeney talks about his new film, American Venus