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Architecture General

Arthur Erickson

An Architect's Life

by (author) David Stouck

Douglas & McIntyre
Initial publish date
Sep 2013
General, Artists, Architects, Photographers
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2015
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2013
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2012
    List Price

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Winner of the City of Vancouver Book Award, the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize, the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Book Prize, and the 2014 Basil Stubbs-Stuart Prize, as well as long-listed for the 2014 RBC Taylor Prize, Arthur Erickson is an intimate portrait of the brilliant and controversial architect who put Canada on the world stage.

Arthur Erickson, Canada's pre-eminent philosopher-architect, was renowned for his innovative approach to landscape, his genius for spatial composition and his epic vision of architecture for people.

Erickson worked chiefly in concrete, which he called "the marble of our times," and wherever they appear, his buildings move the spirit with their poetic freshness and their mission to inspire. Travel was key to Erickson's creative process: floating high above the clouds on extended flights, he made the preliminary drawings for the spectacular, large-scale works that would be built in various parts of Canada -- Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall, Vancouver's Simon Fraser University -- and around the world.

But he was also a controversial figure, more than once attracting the ire of his fellow architects, and leading a complicated personal life that resulted in a series of bankruptcies. In a fall from grace that recalls a Greek tragedy, Canada's great architect -- a handsome, elegant man who lived like a millionaire and counted among his close friends Pierre Trudeau and Elizabeth Taylor -- eventually became penniless.

This first full biography of Erickson, who died in 2009 at the age of 84, traces his life from its modest origins to his emergence on the world stage. Grounded in interviews with Erickson and his family, friends and clients, Arthur Erickson is both an intimate portrait of the man and a stirring account of how he made his buildings work. Brilliantly written and superbly researched, it is also a provocative look at the phenomenon of cultural heroes and the nature of what we call "genius."

About the author

David Stouck is a biographer whose works include Ethel Wilson: A Critical Biography, shortlisted for the VanCity Book Prize, and Collecting Stamps Would Have Been More Fun: The Correspondence of Sinclair Ross 1933-86, a finalist for the Alberta Book Prize. With Myler Wilkinson, he edited Genius of Place: Writing about British Columbia. He is professor emeritus of English at Simon Fraser University.

David Stouck's profile page


  • Winner, Basil Stubbs-Stuart Prize
  • Short-listed, Melva J. Dwyer Award
  • Winner, Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Book Prize
  • Winner, City of Vancouver Book Award
  • Winner, The Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize
  • Long-listed, RBC Taylor Prize
  • Winner, The Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize

Editorial Reviews

"David Stouck's book is admirably candid about Erickson's architectural excesses, his bankruptcy, his sexuality, and the celebrity craving of his later years. Yet the reader recognizes Erickson's genius not only in his greatest works, such as Simon Fraser University and the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, but in his extraordinary perceptions of what humans could and should do. The pages come alive with a young Leonard Bernstein playing the piano in a forties Vancouver salon, Frank Lloyd Wright presiding at Taliesin, Duke Ellington joining Erickson's graduation party, and Erickson and Pierre Trudeau swimming au naturel in a Laurentian lake. A remarkable biography of an exceptional artist."

CD Syndicated

"David Stouck offers an intimate and truly fascinating portrait of the complex and contradictory 'starchitect' who was at the heart of Canadian art and design for more than half a century."

Globe & Mail

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